Could the Toronto Raptors become the Tampa Bay Raptors for the 2020-21 season?
It is looking more and more like that will be the case as the Raptors had a delegation in Tampa last week scoping out practice facilities in the Tampa area.
With Covid cases on the rise across the country, Canada has had travel across its border restricted l since the COVID outbreak began in the spring.
The Canadien government allows only essential travel across the border, and professional sports are considered non-essential.
The Toronto Blue Jays were not permitted to play any home games in Canada this season and played their home games in Buffalo, New York.
It looks like that will be the case for the NBA Raptors. Kansas City and Buffalo are also interested in hosting the Raptors, but Tampa appears to have the inside track should the Raptors need to get a new home for the upcoming season.
The weather, the abundance of facilities, and the relaxed COVID restrictions are all positives in having the Raptors play in Tampa.
Rob Higgins, Executive Director of The Tampa Bay Sports Commission, said they would welcome the Raptors with open arms.
“Ideally, the Raptors can play their upcoming season in Toronto, but should that not be possible, we would have a strong interest in working to successfully meet and exceed their expectations as an alternative host”.
Tampa is no stranger to hosting events and being on the national stage.
The city has hosted the NCAA football championship game, the NCAA Frozen Four, NCAA basketball regionals, and will host the Super Bowl in February.
The Tampa Raptors make sense from a scheduling perspective as well. There will be some re-alignment this season as the NBA will try to restrict travel as much as possible.
There is talk that Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Atlanta, and Charlotte could form a revamped Southeast division for the 2020-21 season.
A decision will need to be made soon. Training camp is scheduled to begin December first, with the season starting December 22nd.
The Raptors would join the Lightning, Rays, Buccaneers, Gators, and Tarpons, as the names of the more popular sports teams in the area.
The Raptors would share Amalie Arena with the Tampa Bay Lightning. This, would be the first time that Amalie has hosted an NBA team and NHL team.