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Raptors making Tampa’s Amalie Arena look like home

A new court completes the transformation of the Lightning’s arena into the NBA team’s temporary home.
The Raptors will play on the same court they would have used in Toronto had they not temporarily relocated to Tampa because of COVID-19-related travel restrictions in Canada.
The Raptors will play on the same court they would have used in Toronto had they not temporarily relocated to Tampa because of COVID-19-related travel restrictions in Canada. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Dec. 17, 2020
Updated Dec. 18, 2020

TAMPA — Though the Raptors can’t open the NBA season in Toronto, they have brought many of their homecourt trappings to Tampa.

To the uninformed eye, it might look like they are still playing at Scotiabank Arena, not Amalie Arena, home of the Lightning.

That starts with the court, a new floor featuring the Raptors’ logos and colors. The court includes the Raptors’ primary logo of a basketball with dinosaur claws through it and the team’s red and black colors. The unpainted wood features two chevrons, a prominent part of the Raptors’ new uniform design.

Related: Raptors games in Tampa will have limited fans in stands

One unique detail of the court: The Raptors’ “We the North” slogan is written in 30 languages along the black perimeter.

“We might not be playing at home,” said Caroline Wright, senior director of operations for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Raptors. “But we rely on the strength of our fan base, and ‘We the North’ is the cornerstone of that brand group and celebrates the diversity of that mandate.”

Adjustments are made to the structure that supports one of the baskets as the the final touches are put in place on the Raptors' new court Tuesday at Amalie Arena.
Adjustments are made to the structure that supports one of the baskets as the the final touches are put in place on the Raptors' new court Tuesday at Amalie Arena. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

This court is the same one the Raptors would have played on in Toronto had they not temporarily relocated to Tampa due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions in Canada. In the NBA, courts have a finite life. Rules allow courts to be sanded down, resurfaced and designed five times. This year, the Raptors were in line for a new one.

The court was built by Horner Flooring, which has been in business since 1891 and is the industry leader in court design and manufacturing. It arrived in Tampa on Monday and was installed Tuesday, its 219 pieces assembled like a huge jigsaw puzzle. For non-national TV games, pieces can be replaced for on-court advertising.

The conversion process, which at Amalie Arena includes covering the hockey ice, takes roughly eight hours.

Every NBA team must have a backup court available, and the Raptors transported theirs from Toronto with other equipment, including hoops, workout equipment and extra uniforms, on five moving vans. Much of the equipment at their temporary team facility at the Marriott hotel next to the arena is rented.

Included in the move was the Raptors’ 2019 NBA championship banner, which hangs in the Amalie Arena rafters next to the retired numbers of Lightning stars Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier.

The Tampa Bay Lightning Vinny Lecavalier 4 jersey hangs retired in the rafters next to the newly installed Toronto Raptors 2019 Works Champions banner as the the final touches are put into place as the Toronto Raptors NBA hard court is installed over a cover where the Tampa Bay Lightning NHL ice currently exists at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Tampa.
The Tampa Bay Lightning Vinny Lecavalier 4 jersey hangs retired in the rafters next to the newly installed Toronto Raptors 2019 Works Champions banner as the the final touches are put into place as the Toronto Raptors NBA hard court is installed over a cover where the Tampa Bay Lightning NHL ice currently exists at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Homecourts are a part of NBA teams’ identities, and Raptors coach Nick Nurse has enjoyed seeing teams play preseason games on their own floors, even if his team is playing away from Toronto.

“It’s better than seeing the one court in the bubble,” Nurse said, referring to the setup at Walt Disney World the league used to finish last season. “It makes it feel a little closer to normal, right? I know it isn’t normal, but I think that’s kind of the point we’re trying to (make) getting back in the home arenas, trying (to get) some of that homecourt feel back.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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