The Toronto Raptors will be heading south next season to start the 2020-21 NBA season in Tampa, Fla., the team announced Friday.
“The Raptors worked diligently with public health officials at the local, provincial and federal level to secure a plan that would permit us to play our 2020-21 season on home soil and on our home court at Scotiabank Arena. These conversations were productive, and we found strong support for the protocols we put forward. Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida," Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a press release.
The Raptors have spent much of the past few months looking for contingency plans in case Toronto remained closed to the NBA. Multiple cities including Louisville and Nashville were reportedly considered by the team, but ultimately Tampa was deemed the best option.
The organization has only committed to beginning the season south of the border and will reassess the COVID-19 situation in the middle of the season.
"We want to thank all levels of government and their public health officials for their dedication to this process, and for looking after the health of Canadians. We commit to continuing our work together, planning for a safe return to play in Toronto. And as an organization, we remain committed to doing all we can to promote and demonstrate public health measures to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in Canada."
"So we’ll be away from our home and our fans for now. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m not sure that’s possible for us – we love Toronto and Canada, and we know we have the best fans in the NBA. For now, I’ll ask you to cheer for us from afar, and we’ll look forward to the day we are all together again.”
The news comes with just over a month to go before the start of the 2020-21 season on December 22.