Raptors to remain in Tampa for rest of season

Team riding Tampa's recent championships, won't return to Toronto this season
Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanFleet vs. Miami Heat forward Andre Iguodola in Tampa, Jan. 20, 2021
Posted at 2:06 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 14:07:11-05

TAMPA, Fla. — The Raptors aren't going back to Toronto this season.

Ongoing challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic and how that affects the process of crossing the border between the U.S. and Canada will keep the Raptors in their adopted home of Tampa for the remainder of the regular season, the team said Thursday.

The Raptors are 6-5 in Amalie Arena, which they're sharing with the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

"Florida has been really welcoming to us and we're so grateful for the hospitality we've found in Tampa and at Amalie," Raptors President Masai Ujiri said in a statement. "We're living in a city of champions, and we intend to carry on the tradition of winning for our new friends and fans here."

Indeed, the Raptors seem to be capitalizing on the recent successes of the Tampa Bay area's sports teams.

'Toronto Raptors 2019 World Champions' banner hangs at Amalie Arena
The Toronto Raptors 2019 world championship banner hangs along with former Tampa Bay Lightning players Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier in the rafters at Amalie Arena before an NBA preseason game between the Raptors and the Miami Heat, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. The Raptors are playing their home games in Tampa as a result of Canada's strict travel regulations stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Tampa also has the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, and the Tampa Bay Rays played in the World Series last season.

"We the North" is plastered throughout the Tampa hotel that the team is using as a practice facility. But don't expect a slogan change despite the geographically misleading messaging.

Ujiri squashed any notion of Tampa becoming the team's permanent home.

"But home is where the heart is, and our hearts are in Toronto," he said. "We think often of our fans, of our Scotiabank Arena family and all those we are missing back home, and we can't wait until we can all be together again."