TAMPA, Fla. — The Toronto Raptors officially opened training camp Tuesday in Tampa Bay.
The team is making its temporary home in Tampa due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions in Canada.
Tampa Bay is not your traditional NBA hub — in fact, this is the first time Tampa will be home to an NBA team. The Raptors had options of where to make their temporary home. General manager Bobby Webster said they chose Tampa — and he has plenty of reasons why.
“We wanted to come here,” Webster said. “It wasn’t a situation where we were directed here.”
Webster’s motivation to move to the south — a world-class facility in Amalie Arena, practice and medical facilities and comfortable living situations.
“On top of it, we are coming from Toronto where I believe it is snowing,” Webster said. “So having some sunshine, some Vitamin-D is a boost not only for the players but staff making a huge sacrifice to come here.”
The Raptors could play up to 36 regular-season home games at Amalie Arena. It’s not clear yet if the NBA will allow fans to attend these games. If they do, Webster is hoping Floridians will hop on the Raptors bandwagon.
“I do think it is a city that doesn’t have an NBA team to the extent they want to adopt us, that would be great,” Webster said. “I do hear there are a number of Canadians that live down there in the winter.”
The Raptors slogan is “We The North.” When word got out of the move to Tampa, t-shirts with a new slogan, “We The South,” were printed.
Webster on the new slogan: “We love it. We saw some of that as soon as we announced. We are ready to dive into this community.”
The Raptors will be holding training camp at St. Leo’s University in Pasco County. Players will participate in individual workouts while the team waits for COVID-19 test results. Once everyone is cleared, full team practice will begin as early as Dec. 6.