The Toronto Raptors have renamed their practice facility the OVO Athletic Centre as part of the team’s continuing partnership with the Toronto-born rapper Drake. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Raptors training facility renamed OVO Athletic Centre in honour of Drake

TORONTO — Drake now has the run of the Toronto Raptors’ practice facility.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri flew to Manchester, England last week both because he’d never seen a Drake concert in person, and to present the Grammy award-winning artist with a key to the training facility in celebration of its new naming rights.

The Raptors have renamed the facility as the OVO Athletic Centre, part of the team’s continuing partnership with the Toronto-born rapper since they named him their “global ambassador” nearly six years ago.

“It’s very unique,” Ujiri said of the partnership, which was an obvious choice given Drake’s connection to Toronto and basketball fans.

“Drake and OVO are an important part of our city’s landscape, our team’s identity, and our plans to bring a championship to Toronto,” he said. “With each step of our partnership over the last five and a half years, we have worked together to build a winning basketball program in Toronto and deliver for our fans and our community.

“This new naming rights deal for our training facility is a perfect example of the strength of this partnership and the innovative opportunities it can generate.”

The facility, located on the grounds of Exhibition Place and which opened in conjunction with NBA all-star weekend in Toronto in February of 2016, was originally known as the BioSteel Centre before being renamed the Toronto Raptors Training Centre.

OVO, an acronym for “October’s Very Own,” is the name of a record label and clothing line co-founded by Drake.

The rebranding of the facility includes OVO Athletic Centre signage — with its recognizable owl logo — inside and outside the facility, and Raptors practice jerseys will feature the owl logo on the upper left chest.

Drake wrote about the announcement on social media: “I am so proud of my brothers and so proud to be from this city I swear this one feels like a high school dream and it’s a blessing to be able to raise up the levels and make the human mind stretch when it comes to thinking about what is possible in your lifetime!! Much love to everyone involved.”

Drake has been involved in planning for the 2016 All-Star Weekend at Scotiabank Arena (then Air Canada Centre), the launch of the “We The North” campaign and the design of an OVO-inspired alternate uniform.

He has a locker in the Raptors locker room, with a nametag that reads “The Boy.” He also has courtside seats, and frequents games when he’s not touring.

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