NBA

Raptors to sell more than 3,000 seats at regular-season games in virus-ravaged Florida

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

Physically distanced fans over age 2 must wear mask, complete health survey

Kyle Lowry shoots a free throw against the Los Angeles Lakers in front of virtual fans in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Fla., on Aug. 1, 2020. The Raptors announced Tuesday that they are permitting a limited number of fans to attend their regular-season games at Amalie Arena in Tampa. (Jim Poorten/Getty Images)

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 to attend games at Tampa's Amalie Arena — normally home to NHL team the Tampa Bay Lightning — 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 and Atlanta, have announced that they will permit fans at games this season so far, and all in limited numbers.

Toronto only team playing outside its market

Friday will mark the first time the Raptors have played in front of fans since March 9 in Utah.

The league shuttered two days after that because of 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.

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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.

Tampa, where the Raptors will play, is located in Hillsborough County, which has seen more than 66,000 reported cases of coronavirus and 999 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a Johns Hopkins University database that tracks cases of the novel coronavirus.

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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Tickets go on sale Thursday morning

"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," said a statement from Tom McDonald, vice-president of ticket sales and service with Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Raptors. 

"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 $30 US and go on sale on Ticketmaster.com on Thursday morning.

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