Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet celebrates after scoringing against the Charlotte Hornets during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game in Charlotte on December 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Chris Carlson

Raptors permitting limited number of fans to Tampa home games

Raptors permitting limited number of fans to Tampa home games

TAMPA, Fla. — The Toronto Raptors will have fans at their Florida home games this season.

The Raptors announced Tuesday they are permitting a limited number of fans at games at Tampa’s Amalie Arena, with plans to sell 3,800 seats for regular-season games but fewer than 3,200 for Friday’s pre-season game against Miami.

There will be no floor seats available, nor any seats within 30 feet of the court. Seating will be physically distanced, fans over the age of two must wear a mask, fans must complete a health survey screening upon entry, and there will be cashless payments for parking and food and beverage services.

The Raptors said there will also be enhanced surface and air disinfection systems in place.

Only a handful of NBA teams, including Orlando, Memphis, Utah, Atlanta, have announced they’ll permit fans at games this season so far, and all in limited numbers.

Friday will mark the first time the Raptors have played in front of fans since March 9 in Utah. The league shuttered two days later due to COVID-19 before restarting four months later in the NBA “bubble” at Walt Disney World.

Because of Canada’s COVID-19 travel restrictions, Toronto is the only team in the league that is playing outside its market, for at least the beginning of the season. Had the Raptors been permitted to stay in Toronto, current restrictions on indoor gatherings would likely have prevented them from having fans at Scotiabank Arena.

Florida has been a hotbed for COVID-19, surpassing 20,000 deaths on Monday. The Sunshine State has seen more than 1.13 million total cases since the outbreak began last March.

Florida Health released COVID-19 guidelines on Tuesday about mass gatherings that recommended cancelling community-wide gatherings of more than 250 people in areas of minimal-to-moderate level of community transmission, and cancelling mass gatherings of any size in areas of substantial level of community transmission.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are allowing 25 per cent capacity at Raymond James Stadium (capacity: 65,890) for NFL games, which is the maximum allowed under NFL and CDC guidelines.

“In these unique and challenging times, the Raptors are grateful to be able to work closely with the NBA, the Lightning organization and local public health officials to create a safe opportunity for a limited number of fans to take in games,” Tom McDonald, MLSE’s vice-president of ticket sales and service, said in a statement.

“As the Raptors call Tampa home for the start of the NBA season, the team looks forward to the opportunity to thank the community for their support while continually emphasizing the important steps required of all of us for a full return of fans when it is safe to do so.”

Tickets for the first 11 games start at US$30 and go on sale on on Thursday morning.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2020.

The Canadian Press