Jan 27, 2021 - Sports
The Raptors are at home in Tampa
The home of the Lightning.
Amalie Arena during a game between the Toronto Raptors and the New Orleans Pelicans on December 23, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Tampa's recent run of championship berths has the city buzzing, and while it prepares to host Super Bowl LV, it's also renting a small piece of Titletown to the temporarily-displaced Toronto Raptors.

The state of play: Amalie Arena, home of the NHL's Lightning, ultimately surfaced as the Raptors' home away from home, and the city has rolled out the red carpet to make them feel welcome.

  • Training: The brand new JW Marriott, next door to Amalie, converted its luxury ballroom and entire fourth floor into the Raptors' training facility and operational headquarters. One rule? No full-court heaves (the ballroom's chandeliers, like the jumbotron at Jerry World, could come into play).
  • Lodging: Another Marriott, across the street from the JW and connected by a tunnel, housed most of the team upon their arrival. Some decided to stay there for the duration, while others have moved to nearby neighborhoods like Hyde Park and Harbour Island.
  • Game day: The arena itself has all the trappings of home, including the Raptors' 2019 championship banner in the rafters and the team's new court design, featuring their signature word, "North," in 25 different languages (Toronto is the most diverse city in the world, per the BBC).

The big picture: The Raptors, already the only team based outside the U.S., know the value of home as less a location than a state of mind.

  • "'We The North' isn't necessarily an idea of you living in Toronto," said Kevin Mones, creative director at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. "We've had the notion that the north isn't a destination; it's a declaration."
  • Team Tampa — as the collective of the city's teams refers to itself — believes success for one is success for all, and has gladly welcomed the Raptors into its ranks for however long their stay lasts.

The bottom line: The Raptors are still the north — just with a dose of southern hospitality.

Go deeper: Inside the Raptors' frantic relocation (The Athletic)

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