Toronto Raptors' Alex Len, right, goes up for a dunk against Philadelphia 76ers' Tobias Harris during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Because of rising cases in western Florida, Raptors won’t have fans at Amalie Arena

TAMPA, Fla. — The Toronto Raptors won’t have fans at home games at Tampa’s Amalie Arena for now.

Vinik Sports Group, which owns the Tampa Bay Lightning and Amalie Arena, announced Saturday that the organization wouldn’t admit fans as “COVID-19 numbers across west central Florida have risen sharply in recent days.”

No fans will be permitted in the building until at least Feb. 5.

Florida has been a hotspot for COVID-19, and reported nearly 20,000 new cases on Friday as the global pandemic continues to surge there.

The state has recorded more than 1.4 million cases since the pandemic began.

“Our health care agency partners and the local governments have helped ensure that Amalie Arena is as safe and healthy as possible. But because of the increasing numbers and the rising positivity rates, we are not comfortable bringing large numbers of fans indoors to watch hockey or basketball right now,” said Steve Griggs, CEO for Vinik Sports Group and the Lightning. “We are hopeful to reopen the arena soon after we see declining rates and better overall numbers.”

The Raptors were one of about a half dozen NBA teams to permit a limited number of fans at home games, with 3,800 tickets available for each game at Amalie Arena.

Because of Canada’s border restrictions and rising COVID-19 cases, the Raptors were forced to play their home games out of Tampa for at least the first half of the season.

The Raptors had offered tickets for the first 11 games of the team’s home schedule, with three games having been played. Tickets sold for the other eight games will be refunded.

Amalie Arena hasn’t felt like home court for the Raptors, with many fans in attendance supporting the visiting teams.

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