A delegation from the Toronto Raptors was in Tampa Bay late last week touring practice facilities, sources have told DraftKings Nation.
The Raptors are likely in need of a new home for the upcoming 2020-21 NBA season thanks to the Canadian government restrictions on “non-essential” cross-border travel. Tampa is one of several cities being considered, but is considered the favorite because of the weather, facilities, and relaxed regulations in Florida regarding Covid-19. Other locations in the running, but likely behind in the process, include Kansas City and Buffalo, according to area sources.
With the timeline of the NBA, many in Tampa Bay expect the Raptors to make a decision as soon as this week. The NBA is scheduled to have training camps begin on December 1st, with the regular season tipping off on December 22nd.
Two of the facilities included in the tour were the Muma Basketball Center at the University of South Florida, as well as AdventHealth Center Ice facility in Pasco County, though a “wide net” was cast across the Tampa Bay area with at least 10 potential homes considered. Muma has two full basketball courts in two separate parts of the same building for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at USF, and AdventHealth has four full-sized hockey rinks, though one is in a mini-arena setting that can be converted for basketball.
The Raptors would play home games at Amalie Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Downtown Tampa. Practice facilities for the NBA have minimum requirements via union contracts, and a baseline standard that includes training and rehabilitation areas is collectively bargained. Tampa is the largest media market in the United States without an NBA team.
It will be interesting to see if the Raptors’ move affects the teams ability to sign potential free agents. Toronto has two big names hitting the open market in G Fred VanVleet and C Serge Ibaka. Both should garner considerable interest from other teams and we don’t know if one or either would prefer a move to Florida or seeking another location with a different team. Since players would also be working in the the State of Florida, their income tax bill would also decrease significantly over plying their trade in tax-heavy Ontario during the 2020-21 season.
We’ll find out more once the NBA free agency window opens on Friday at 6:00 p.m. ET. Players can sign after noon on Sunday.