Toronto Raptors fans flock to Jurassic Park for 'crazy' experience

If you're a passionate Toronto Raptors fan looking for a cool spot to catch the big game, Jurassic Park is the place to be.

Fans describe 'unexplainable buzz' outside Toronto's Air Canada Centre for playoff games

Raptors fans of all ages line up for hours to get a good spot at Jurassic Park to watch their team perform in the NBA playoffs. (John Rieti/CBC)

Loud. Intense. Electric. 

These are the words used to describe the vibe in downtown Toronto when Canada's only NBA team is in the playoffs. 

If you're a passionate Toronto Raptors fan looking for a cool spot to catch the big game, Jurassic Park is the place to be. 

"It's crazy," says 22-year-old Angelo Anor, who stood outside the Air Canada Centre to watch Game 1 of Toronto's playoff series against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

"This is something you have to experience if you're a Raptors fan and even if you're not, it's worth going to cheer on your city."

Young basketball fans sport red, white, black and grey colours of the Raptors at Jurassic Park during every playoff game since 2014. (John Rieti/CBC)

The ACC has been the home of the Raptors since it opened in 1999. In 2010, a massive video screen was added outside of the arena to provide fans with a gathering space to watch their teams.

The plaza is officially known as Maple Leaf Square, but when the Raptors are in the playoffs as they've been every year since 2014, fans convert the space to the more appropriately-named Jurassic Park.

With more than 5,000 fans packed between Bay and York streets and thousands more filling the block all the way down Bremner Boulevard, fans say you can feel the vibrations after a raucous play that gets the crowd amped up with excitement. 

Anor says he saw fans pack the plaza while watching playoff games on television and knew he had to take part in the experience.

"Everyone has the same interest, supporting the same team," he says.

"There was easily a couple thousand people ... I didn't see one Pacer jersey."

Fans say Jurassic Park is electric after a big play takes place on the massive TV and people are able to share emotions with complete strangers. (John Rieti/CBC)

It's that unison of spirit that brought Stephen Nano to Jurassic Park for Game 1.

"It's really tough to get a ticket, especially for a decent price," he says. "I would personally love to go to the game, but besides going to the game, this is the closest you can get to a playoff atmosphere."

Nano says he experienced it for the first time over the weekend and was blown away.

Thousands of people head to the public square outside of the Air Canada Centre to watch the Dinos perform on the big screen. (John Rieti/CBC)

"There's an unexplainable buzz ... almost like a pit in your stomach with excitement," he explains, adding how the outpouring of emotions outside the arena replicates the atmosphere inside. 

"There's a sense of camaraderie," he says. "I can share my emotions with a complete stranger."

In a nutshell, Jurassic Park gives fans a public space to spill their emotions and unite behind a single banner.

"It's loud, there's people pumping up the crowd and everyone's just talking about basketball," Anor says.

So if you can't afford a ticket for Game 2, which were selling Monday morning for more than $100 each on, but you still want to be part of the action, Jurassic Park is an option that should only cost fans their voice for a few days.

But if you ask diehard fans like Anor, they'll tell you it was worth it — and they'll be back for one simple reason:

"I just wanted to be a part of it."

Rain or shine, Raptors fans have made it a tradition to head downtown and make some noise while their squad is in the playoffs. (NBAE/Getty)


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