Tampa’s new NBA team, the Toronto Raptors, are currently practicing at St. Leo University. The team—relocated to Tampa for at least half a season due to Canadian coronavirus travel restrictions—has a world-class practice facility under construction in a ballroom at the J.W. Marriott in Water Street, just a short walk from downtown Tampa’s Amalie Arena where home games will be played.
And that first home game happens on Friday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. EDT when the Raptors take on the Miami Heat in a preseason matchup. The first regular season competition is a Dec. 23, 7:30 p.m. EDT tilt against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Canadian English language sports network TSN is slated to broadcast the games, but whether or not Tampa will be included in the list of NBA teams operating in an eligible market that can host fans at 25% capacity is unclear.
On Friday, Jennifer Quinn, Director of Communications for the Raptors, told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that, "We’re awaiting guidance from various groups, including the NBA" regarding fan attendance.
A rep for Amalie Arena told CL they think the venue could be approved to have fans. "But we don't know yet," they added. "Also, attendance protocols will be mandated by the NBA."
Last month, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the NBA sent a memo to teams detailing the protocols for teams allowed to have fans at games. At the time, not every team was allowed to do so, and the ones that were had to implement very specific mask rules, adhere to strict food and drink regulations and also test for coronavirus depending on the county’s positivity rate. As of Friday, Hillsborough County has a positivity rate of about 8%, well above the World Health Organization's recommendation of 5% or less for at least two weeks before loosening social distancing protocols.
In the meantime, someone buy me this Tampa Raptors jersey, please.
“I'm in a good place right now, I’m happy and excited about the future and I just feel like I have that joy again.” @pskills43's ready for a new season@olearychris 📰 » https://t.co/NuWVrQ3ghh pic.twitter.com/RtwKzCNl0C— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 4, 2020
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