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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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
It is hard to beat the Air Canada Centre in terms of food or drink. As the home of the Maple Leafs, where tickets can easily hit $1000 a game, fans expect a premium offering. The more affordable Raptors benefit from this and fans can enjoy a wide variety of incredible dishes, though they should expect to pay for it. Stadium staples are easily found, but when at 'The Hangar' as the arena is known, be sure to try some of the specialty items available.
Smoke's Poutinerie is a great bet for the Canadian favourite poutine - french fries, gravy, and fresh cheese curds. If you prefer sausages or gourmet hot dogs, check out The Dog House with varieties ranging from butter chicken to Greek to of course, poutine. Molson Canadian beer is brewed onsite and the operation can be viewed from the concourse.
Fine dining options are also abundant, though priced in the standard, shocking Leafs range. There are three upscale 'dining clubs' throughout the arena, but if you are in the premium seats near the court you can take advantage of the lengthy in-seat menu.
It is impossible not to notice the massive amount of Leafs history hanging from the rafters, but the arena and team have gone out of their way to ensure Raptors fans feel at home. There are large murals at the ends of the 500-level seats and a ring of 'We the North' banners top the 100-level section. Before entering the arena, fans will notice the massive black and white 'We the North' banner on Bay Street and this theme continues throughout the public-access Galleria as well as in the concourses.
The arena's exterior facade does well to incorporate the building's history as the postal terminal for the city and ornate carvings of canoes, airplanes, and other historical delivery methods grace the stone walls. At the west end of the arena is Maple Leaf Square, rechristened Jurassic Park during the Raptors' playoff run where tens of thousands of supporters packed the square and overflowed down Bremner Street to watch the game free on the big screen mounted to the side of the building.
The videoboard is very new and crystal clear but even so the club will be replacing it with a massive new one for the 2015-2016 season. Next to the videoboard, aside from the multitude of Leafs banners are commemorations of the inaugural season in 1995-1996, as well as the divisional championships in 2006-2007 and 2013-2014. Within the concourses are displays commemorating the creator of basketball, Canadian James Naismith.
The in-game presentation by the Raptors is second-to-none. Incorporating well-known Toronto rapper Drake, the Raptors have unveiled the '416' zone (named after the local area code, not the actual seating section) with a DJ and a party atmosphere. Fans sitting here also get a t-shirt with these seats at one 100-level end. Otherwise, the atmosphere is very high-energy and proud to be host to the 'Northern Uprising.' Someone at the Raptors marketing department should be getting a huge raise.
It would be impossible for the ACC to be in a better spot than it is; right downtown, connected to the main transport hub of Union Station. Around the arena are plenty of places to have a pre-match pint or a post-game dinner.
Some of the better pubs within spitting distance of Air Canada Centre are the Miller Tavern, the Fox, and the Loose Moose. However, Real Sports Bar and Grill, connected to the arena and fronting on Maple Leaf Square, must be the world's best sports bar. Being there is simply a surreal experience, with the largest of the 200 HDTV screens being larger than a large house and towering over everything. This is truly an experience not to be missed.
During the Raptors 2014 playoff run their fans proved themselves to be far and away the loudest in the league and possibly the most passionate too, filling the square for home and road dates. The excitement is still in the air as the team has only gotten better since then, and the Air Canada Centre is a boisterous place to be, with plenty of chanting and little need for any prompts from the PA announcer. Expect to see Canada flags or pro-Canadian banners at the game, ensuring fans from the other 29 American clubs are in for a uniquely international experience.
The Air Canada Centre could not be better served by public transit, being connected to Union Station. Here, subways, regional GO Trains, buses, and the nationwide railway networks all converge. Currently the station is undergoing a multi-billion-dollar expansion and renovation so it can be a bit confusing for commuters, but it is definitely possible to get to the Air Canada Centre with relative ease.
If you are planning on driving though, you are in for a bit of a doozy. Driving anywhere in Toronto is very difficult and finding parking in the downtown core is expensive and time-consuming. Taxis are also very pricey. The best bet is to stick to taking a train in.
Washrooms are clean and generally large enough to avoid major queues.
A Raptors game is an amazing experience nowadays and it is possible to get tickets on certain dates and in certain sections for as low as $15. The Raptors do utilize dynamic pricing depending on certain matchups and dates so be sure to check the price of your ticket.
When the playoffs come round, ticket prices soar. The best playoff experience in the NBA last season was also its most expensive with the average ticket price just shy of $400!
Still, regular season tickets can be had for a relatively affordable price to many games. It is the food and drink that can kill here, however, and though it is very good experience, it is also very expensive.
An extra point for Toronto having hosted the first NBA game in history, at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1946 where the Toronto Huskies hosted New York. There is a good commemorative display at the ACC.
An extra point for the thoroughly entertaining and highly involved mascot, the Raptor, as well as his new assistant, Stripes, who filled in when the Raptor was injured last year.
An extra mark to PA announcer Herbie Kuhn, who has been with the team since the beginning and is exciting to listen to without being overbearing.
A final extra mark is necessary for American fans who come to visit the one and only Canadian franchise and will be in for a unique experience.
The Air Canada Centre has truly become among the best venues in the NBA and a trip to the Raptors will surprise fans, especially those south of the border. The air of excitement buzzes through the arena and around the city and the Raptors look only to be getting better and better.
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.
146 Front Street West
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Toronto, ON M5J 2L6
30 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M5E 1X8
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Toronto, ON M5V 2T6
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