TAMPA — While the Toronto Raptors will call Tampa home for at least the first half of the NBA season, it remains uncertain how regularly locals will be able to follow their adopted team.
It is still unclear whether spectators will be permitted to attend any of the 18 home games — 17 regular season and one preseason — slated to be played at Amalie Arena during the first half of the season. There’s also no word yet on whether Raptors games will be broadcast on television or radio in the Tampa Bay area.
Clarity on at least one of those issues could be coming soon. Raptors team president Masai Ujiri said he had a meeting Saturday afternoon to discuss “fans and tickets and the process of what we’re going to do there.”
“We’re in the process of working all these things out,” Ujiri said. “The health and safety protocols are going to be important to us, and not only in the city or in the arena, but also to us as a team. We’ve come from an environment, too, where we’ve learned a very, very good way on how to be disciplined with this.
“But we also understand, too, that gradually we have to start coming back and figuring it out slowly as we learn more about testing and all these protocols. And the NBA has done an incredible job of just taking us through all of this.”
The NBA was the first sports league to shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. It resumed play without fans over the summer in a controlled bubble setting at Walt Disney World.
This season, teams will decide whether to allow fans at their arenas, and state and local regulations on public gatherings will play a role, as well.
Some clubs — including the Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz — have announced they will host fans at home games in a limited capacity. The Orlando Magic reportedly have plans to allow fans as well.
Locally, the Bucs are currently playing home games at Raymond James Stadium at 25-percent capacity. Amalie Arena hosted 2,000 socially distantanced fans to watch Stanley Cup games on the arena’s video board, and the facility has been refitted to meet all CDC requirements.
Broadcasting Raptors games in Tampa Bay is equally — if not more — complicated. The Magic own territorial rights over Tampa Bay and had to give their approval for the Raptors to relocate. So the team would have to work with the Magic for the right to televise games or put them on the radio. Magic games are broadcast locally on Fox Sports Florida.
If the Raptors can’t broadcast games locally, the team’s seven nationally televised games on ESPN, TNT and NBA TV would be the only games Tampa Bay-area residents would be able to watch without purchasing premium NBA Game Pass subscriptions.
“We’re in the process of all those things,” Ujiri said. “We are talking about showing games and all of that, and we are also respectful, too, of the Orlando Magic and being across the road from them. I thank them for allowing us to be within the same sort of the radius here and letting us play in Tampa.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.