Typically, the Toronto Raptors have been an also-ran in the NBA. They have been a team without much of a following outside of Toronto save for a star player here or there. That all changed in 2014. With the 2014 edition of the Raptors came a birth in the NBA playoffs and an awakening of the Toronto fan who has been craving success in Canada’s largest city. The Raptors made a whole lot of noise, not just inside the Air Canada Centre where the arena was sold out and the roof was blown off of the Hanger, but outside in Maple Leaf Square, where to the surprise of the entire NBA a new fan experience was born with 10,000 fans cheering and watching on the big screen outside in what has now been dubbed Jurassic Park.
The Raptors have been a part of Toronto since their expansion days in 1995. After beginning their tenure in the SkyDome, the Raptors moved, along with the Toronto Maple Leafs, into the Air Canada Centre in 1999. Both the Raptors and Leafs are part of one of the most unique ownership situations in all of sports with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) also owning the ACC, Toronto FC and the Toronto Marlies. The holding company is owned by corporate rivals Rogers Communications and Bell, each controlling an equal part with Larry Tannenbaum owning the final portion.
The Raptors have become a central part of the changing cultural landscape in the city of Toronto, with the team’s popularity increasing all the time. They have linked themselves very closely with rap star Drake, and rolled out a new look and logo for the 2015-2016 season. The Raptors have latched on to the “We The North” moniker which began as a simple hashtag, and exploded to be central to the team’s marketing. In 2016, Toronto will be on display with the Raptors hosting the 2015-16 NBA All-Star Game. The Raptors continue to make waves in the NBA and are proving to be a spot on any basketball fan’s bucket list.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The Air Canada Centre provides a major league selection of culinary options that is equal to any other spot in the NBA.
The food selections at the Air Canada Centre are numerous. As with most arenas, the best selections are to be found in the main concourse. That being said, the upper concourse is not devoid of options. All of your expected fare is available including hot dogs ($6.25), sausage ($7.50), pizza ($6.25), french fries ($5.50) and popcorn ($7/$12). These stands also offer some more interesting options including poutine, chicken wraps, burgers, pulled pork and garlic parmesan fries. There are also a number of specialty stands that you would want to consider. The Bay Street Grill features Tex-Mex fare. Hero Certified Burgers is a franchise that is gaining some momentum in Canada, and maintains a presence at the Air Canada Centre. Also, nothing says Canada like Mr. Sub and Tim Hortons, which have a few spots around the main concourse. A few original spots that you will want to consider include MacCheesey's, a specialty mac and cheese place; Smoke's Poutinerie, featuring poutine taken to the next level; Nathan's Dog House, featuring a huge variety of unique hot dogs; and Sweet Wally's which features sweets to die for including funnel cake fries, loaded brownies and deep-fried rolo.
The featured soft drink at Air Canada Centre is Coca-Cola which can be found at a number of locations ($5.50/$8.50). There are a number of spots to find alcoholic beverages including Suds on Six and the Molson Canadian Brewhouse. At the Brewhouse, in the main concourse, you can actually see the giant copper kettles where they brew beer in house. Some of the selections that are available include Molson Canadian, Coors Light, Heineken, Coors, Creemore, Dos Equis, Strongbow and Hay Day. Tall boys go for $11 or $12 depending on the type. Molson Canadian and Coors Light are also on draught for $12 or $16 depending on the size. Smirnoff Ice and other alcoholic options are also available.
If you want to plan your culinary adventure before heading to the arena, you can do so on the Air Canada Centre website. Two spots that you will want to hit are Nathan's Dog House and Sweet Willy's. You won't be disappointed.
The Toronto Raptors and Air Canada Centre offer an atmosphere that is as good as any other in the NBA.
Outside the Air Canada Centre, patrons will want to check out Jurassic Park, which is the west side of the arena, on Bremner Blvd. This is formally known as Maple Leaf Square, and features a large video board on the western wall of the exterior. If you are plenty early, then you will want to travel to the north side of the arena and enter through the Galleria. This part of the Hanger directly links to Union Station, houses the ticket windows, and provides a number of interactive games to keep fans entertained during pre-game. The eastern end of the Galleria features a nice display on the Toronto Postal Delivery Building and how the old building was incorporated as part of the Air Canada Centre.
Inside the ACC, the concourses are adorned with numerous pictures of famous Raptors and Raptor moments along with other key moments in ACC history. The advertising in the concourses has been toned down in recent years which is good because it was at an absolutely obnoxious level. Entering the seating bowl will remind patrons that the Air Canada Centre is first and foremost the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The rafters are littered with Maple Leafs related banners. However, there are four banners which are Raptors-centric, including a banner commemorating the inaugural season as well as the 3 division championships that the Raptors can lay claim to. The basketball floor has changed slightly with the adoption of the new logo. Gone is the optical illusion, placard Raptors at the baseline, replaced with a more traditional baseline. Also, We The North is also prominent along the sidelines, a testament to the centrality to the Raptors marketing in what has become the team's rallying cry. The brand new video board is state of the art, crystal clear and huge.
The in-game promotions are what you would expect from an NBA game. There is a ton of action going on throughout the breaks. The in-game host keeps things rolling and the Raptors Dance Pack perform numerous times during the breaks. The Raptor, the team's mascot, is proving to be one of the better mascots in all sports. He has a central role in the game and does a fantastic job playing off of the PA announcer, Herbie. As expected, there is music being played throughout the game, sometimes traditional organ, sometimes hip-hop. Much of the music is spun by the in-house DJ, 4Corners. If you are heading to a Raptors game, you had better like Drake. His presence is felt throughout the game with numerous Drake songs being played before the game and during key moments. However, down the stretch, it is back to the old favorites with the hard-rock being relied on to keep the fans' energy up during the crucial breaks at the end. The pre-game show is broadcast from the concourse outside of Gate 5 and can be seen on the video board in the arena or live, behind the cameras.
The seating bowl is made up of two main levels with the baskets at the east and west ends of the ice. The two levels offer fairly different views. The lower level offers a gentle slope, while the upper deck is steeper than in many other arenas. The upper deck in the west end features the Fan Deck on level 600, a new seating area. The Crown Royal bar is located in the upper deck on the east side. If you are looking for a different experience, then you may want to check out the new Drake Zone near the DJ booth. If you would like to see Raptors centre court logo in its proper fashion, then you will need to head to the south side of the arena. As far as the best place to sit, probably one of the corners in the upper deck is the best spot to be. These seats are economical and offer a great view of the court.
Downtown Toronto is one of the best spots anywhere for an arena to be located.
There are a boatload of places that a fan can go within walking distance of the Air Canada Centre to get something to eat before or after the game. Front Street is a great place to start looking. There you will find Jack Astor's, Texas Lone Star Grill, Canyon Creek, Casey's and Boston Pizza. All are recognizable and common chains. If you are looking for something a little more original, then try Joe Badalli's, The Loose Moose, The Fox or Hoop's. Right in Maple Leaf Square itself, you will find the very popular Real Sports Bar and Grill. Real Sports is pretty huge and has almost limitless TV screens. If you are looking for more of a refined culinary experience, then you may want to make reservations for a really nice dinner at 360, the revolving restaurant at the top of the CN Tower.
With all of the entertainment options in Toronto, it would be a good idea to spend an entire week. The CN Tower offers an unprecedented view of the city as well as other attractions including the Edge Walk. At the base of the CN Tower is the new Ripley's Aquarium of Toronto. The Toronto Theatre District may only be rivalled by Broadway in Manhattan. There is plenty of shopping downtown especially at the iconic Eaton Centre. Hockey fans will demand to make a pilgrimage to the Hockey Hall of Fame. All of this doesn't even include the various festivals and special events that take place in the city at various times. There is also no shortage of sporting options within the city as well. The ACC is also the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Rock. Up the street at the Rogers Centre you will find the Toronto Blue Jays. Just to the north is the University of Toronto, where the Varsity Blues field a whole host of athletic teams including football, basketball and hockey. To the west at Exhibition Place you will find BMO Field, home of Toronto FC and the Toronto Argonauts, and the Ricoh Coliseum, home of the Toronto Marlies.
There are a wide variety of places to stay downtown, however, one must be prepared to pay. Downtown is not a cheap place to stay. A decent option is the Strathcona. Another popular spot is the Westin Harbour Castle. If you are looking for something unique and an experience unto itself, try getting a room at the Royal York, one of the oldest, most prestigious hotels in the country.
Toronto Raptors fans are making a charge to be considered among the elite in the NBA.
In the 2015-2016 season the Raptors are averaging over 19,800 fans per game which puts them at fourth in the entire NBA. The previous season they averaged just under 19,800 fans per game and they ranked fifth in the league. They jumped up from tenth in the 2013-2014 season. The Raptors fans are pushing themselves into the elite of the NBA. It will be interesting to see how the fans react to a bit of a downturn on the court.
Unfortunately, Raptor fans are typical Toronto fans. They are very late arriving, even with the later starts for basketball as opposed to hockey. That being said, Raptor fans are considerably louder than their Maple Leaf hockey counterparts. They are involved in the game throughout and will even carry the team during big moments. The vibe at a Raptors game is totally different than a Leafs game. The crowd is far less corporate, much more engaged, and simply a whole lot more fun.
There are a number of different ways to get to the Air Canada Centre for a Raptors game.
The ACC is located right downtown Toronto, north of the Harbourfront. It is immediately north of the Gardiner Expressway between the Don Valley Parkway and Highway 427. If you are coming from out of town then getting to the Gardiner may be a bit of a challenge as it is significantly south of Highway 401, the main highway, and Pearson International Airport. If you are coming from the west, a little trick is to get off of the Gardiner quickly and take Lakeshore Boulevard for the duration to the ACC.
The direct link to Union Station from the Hangar is a fantastic option for fans. Union Station houses the TTC subway, Via Rail and GO Transit. Many patrons take the subway or GO Train when coming to the ACC. If you are considering the public transit option, check out the GO Transit or TTC websites for maps, schedules and other planning tools to aid you in getting to the ACC on time.
There are a number of surface and garage parking options right around the Air Canada Centre. Parking will not be cheap. A $15 tab is a pretty good find. Garages on Bremner Blvd by Jurassic Park offer a seriously close option, however you are looking at $35 or higher to park your car here. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to find parking. There are some prepaid parking options available, but nearly as many as you will find at a comparable arena in the United States. Check out ParkMe or Parking Panda if this interests you.
The ticket windows for the ACC are found within the Galleria at the west end. Lineups are not normally an issue at the ticket windows, but the most popular entry point is through the Galleria. Increased security has definitely slowed down this process. Getting to the game early is the best plan, or entering at one of the exterior gates may be a better idea.
Getting around the ACC is not too bad. The washroom facilities are pretty good and lineups are only a reality during those peak times when you would expect a lineup for the washroom. The increased attendance has brought increased foot traffic in the concourses of course, however they are fairly spacious and getting around is not awful.
If you are selective, taking in a Raptors game can be affordable as compared to other NBA teams.
Ticket prices for the Raptors can range from $18 up to $375. As with many NBA teams, pricing can change depending on which team is coming to town. For example, a Fanzone ticket for the Brooklyn Nets on a Monday will go for $18, a great bargain, however when LeBron James and the Cavaliers come to town, that same ticket will go for $98. Being selective with your game selection will aid you in keeping the cost down. According to the 2014-2015 Fan Cost Index, the Toronto Raptors come right in the middle of the NBA, actually below the NBA average. The average ticket cost was calculated at $42. This has no doubt increased for the 2015-2016 season after the team saw such success the previous season. There are also a number of ticket package options that are available which can include food and merchandise.
Check out Parking Panda for some of the best parking options for the game. Use the promo code STADIUMJOURNEY10 for 10% off your first transaction.
An extra mark for the Toronto Huskies hosting the very first NBA game in history vs the New York Knicks at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1946.
An extra mark for Herbie Kuhn, the PA announcer, who has been with the Raptors since the SkyDome days and brings energy and excitement to the experience.
An extra mark for the Raptors attempting to bring themselves among the NBA elite, on and off the court.
The Jurassic Park experience has opened the eyes of the NBA to the reality that the Raptors are here to stay. They continue to climb to elite status in the NBA under the "We The North" rallying cry. It may just be that a trip to see the Toronto Raptors should be on your basketball bucket list. A trip to see the Raptors is a great experience and will make you rethink the idea that Toronto is just a hockey city.
The Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario was opened in 1999 as a multi-purpose arena shared by the Toronto Raptors of the NBA, the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL, and the Toronto Rock of the NLL (Lacrosse). The Raptors played their first game there on February 21, 1999 against the Vancouver Grizzlies, after moving down the street from the Skydome (now known as the Rogers Centre). Seating capacity for basketball is 19,800. The arena is owned by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., owners of both the Raptors and Maple Leafs.
The Raptors are a relatively new NBA team, having joined the league in 1995 and are presently celebrating their fifteenth anniversary. A number of NBA greats have played for the Raptors over the years, including Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and Hakeem Olajuwon, but the team has not enjoyed a great deal of success. The Raptors have made the playoffs only five times in their fifteen years, winning only one playoff series.
The Air Canada Center (ACC) is located on Bay Street in the heart of Toronto's business district, surrounded by skyscrapers and not far from the CN Tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. The arena can be entered from the street, or through Toronto's Union Station.
The ACC is a beautiful, first-rate facility located in a great neighbourhood. But the big problem for the Raptors is that they share the building with the Maple Leafs here in the center of the hockey universe, and as a result, the arena is geared much more towards hockey than it is basketball. Consequently, Chris Bosh and the rest of the Raptors seem like they're nothing more than really tall house-sitters for when the Leafs are off on a road trip.
What do Kenny Anderson, Chris Bosh, Damon Stoudamire, Alonzo Mourning, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter have in common? All of them bailed on the Toronto Raptors. Whether they left as a result of free agency (McGrady & Bosh), forced a trade (Carter & Stoudamire), or refused to report (Anderson & Mourning) the Toronto Raptors are littered with stories of players who wanted "greener pastures." It should have been an omen when the very first Raptor, B.J. Armstrong, who was drafted first overall in the 1995 expansion draft, refused to join the Raptors. Although it may sound like sour grapes, this plethora of athletes have fed into an inferiority complex that plagues fans of the Toronto Raptors; always fearing that superstar American players are unwilling to play north of the border. As a result, the current incarnation of the NBA club has left fans apathetic. With no star in a star driven league, the reality is that the Raptors are now struggling to capture the interest of fans in Leaf-land.
The Raptors share much with the big brother Maple Leafs including ownership, arena, and poor showing at gametime. Living in downtown Toronto, at the Air Canada Centre, which is also owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the Raptors have had a rough go on the court the last couple of years, and it has taken its toll on the turnstile.
Nearly 20 years ago, the Toronto Raptors joined the NBA. Throughout their existence there have definitely been more downs than ups. The previous official review for the Raptors at Stadium Journey referred to the inferiority complex that has plagued Raptor fans with a laundry list of players who took their exodus from Canada's largest city. A funny thing happened with the misery of the Raptor fans during the 2013-2014 season...a spark of hope was born.
The parent company of the Raptors, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, hired former Anschutz Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke and a new path for the company was forged. Masai Ujiri was hired as the new General Manager. In what was generally viewed as a move to facilitate tanking for a better draft pick, the Raptors traded Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings, and then went on to win the Atlantic Division in 2014. This new found success along with an intriguing partnership with Toronto rap star Drake, has brought some sizzle and excitement back to the basketball community in Toronto.
The Raptors are owned by the same holding company that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL, and their farm team the Toronto Marlies, as well as Toronto FC of MLS. They also own the Air Canada Centre, where the Raptors and Leafs play. MLSE is owned by competing media giants Bell Canada and Rogers Canada. Money is not an issue for the parent companies, and the demands for a winner in Toronto are high. With a couple of small changes, the Raptors have provided some hope for their fans where there was only apathy. Where the Raptors go from here, we will see, but there is no doubt that an improved team on the court makes for an improved experience in the seats.
The 2014-2015 season marks the 20th season of NBA basketball for the Toronto Raptors.Though they have been in the league for two decades, the 2014-2015 campaign feels like the true birth of the club. In a city accustomed to continual lack of success with other franchises, the Raptors have provided a refreshing relief by building from the ground-up into a very young and exciting team that looks to contend for years to come. Raptors support in Toronto was galvanized after a remarkable playoff round against Brooklyn Nets where the team was able to capitalize on strong nationalistic sentiment and capture Canadian fans' hearts.
Buoyed on by allegations of match-fixing and the feeling that the NBA wanted nothing to do with a Canadian team in the playoffs, Raptors fans sick of hearing about how they were irrelevant in the otherwise completely American league, came together under the “We the North” banner and showed levels of support never before seen in the NBA.
Fans were unbelievably loud in the 2014 playoffs, frequently causing players to miss whistles on the court, and even prompting the Nets to take to Twitter in praise of an atmosphere comparable to a European Champions League football match.
The Raptors have finally broken through on the Leafs-dominated sporting landscape in Toronto and basketball games at the Air Canada Centre are a treat.
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