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.
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 food options at the Air Canada Centre remain numerous and of high quality. There is a generous mix of recognizable brands and original items make a Raptors game a culinary delight. Tim Horton's, Pizza Pizza, and Mr. Sub are all prominent at the Air Canada Centre. There are also some original stands that warrant attention. New additions Jamie Kennedy Fries and Bartley's Burgers have become quite popular choices during intermissions. However, a stop should be made at Burkie's Dog House, which offers a wide variety of original, gourmet hot dogs. There is something for everyone at the game and you should not leave unsatisfied. On the down side, concession prices are high, but at least you are getting good quality for your money, which can't always be said at pro sports venues.
The Air Canada Centre is the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. There is no denying that the Raptors play second class citizen in their own home. The concourses offer few images of Toronto Raptors moments. To be fair, the short, lack luster history of the Raptors and the increased advertising found at the Air Canada Centre play a big factor in this.
The seating bowl offers great views from just about everywhere and you will be happy with your seat. Above the court, the state of the art video board offers fans a great view and tons of information in a crystal clear fashion. The Raptors sport two lowly banners up in the rafters; a banner commemorating the inaugural season of 1995 - 1996, and a banner recognizing the 2006-2007 Atlantic Division Champions. In and of itself, this isn't a big deal, but when compared to the plethora of Stanley Cup banners and honoured players for the Maple Leafs, it definitely makes the Raptors seem insignificant.
Usually, a Raptors game offers more energy and a production aimed at a much younger audience. With a ton of hip-hop music throughout the production and the Raptors Dance Pack, the Raptors experience can be much more enjoyable than a stuffy Maple Leafs game.
The Raptors have put together a nice display honouring the father of basketball, Canadian, Dr. James Naismith. This museum like display was stumbled upon in the upper concourse. It is unfortunate that such an important display of Canadian basketball was hidden upstairs. The location of the display was fine, but some advertising about the display on the lower levels would have shown that MLSE understood its importance.
Located in the heart of Canada's largest city, the Air Canada Centre is in a prime location for a fantastic outing. The nearby Hockey Hall of Fame and CN Tower are both major tourist attractions which should be a must for first time visitors. The city's theatre district rivals any North American city save New York. As a result of these tourist areas, the Air Canada Centre and the Rogers Centre, there is a plethora of dining options for pre and post game fare. Maple Leaf Square is just outside the doors of the ACC and features the Real Sports Bar and Grill, which remains all the rage in Toronto.
Raptor fans are far more rambunctious and energetic than Leaf fans. The energy found at a Raptors game can be great. However, with the departure of Chris Bosh, and no player stepping in to capture the imagination of the Raptor faithful, the energy and attendance at Raptor games have dipped significantly. The attendance at Raptor games have fallen to around 17th in the league. For the fans to come back in sufficient numbers, and bring the necessary energy with them, someone will have to step in and give the fans something to cheer about.
Getting around downtown Toronto can be a challenge. The Gardiner Expressway or Lakeshore Blvd. will bring you downtown where finding cheap parking will be a problem. Parking will cost you a minimum of $20 and can go for more. A better play may be to take the TTC Subway to Union Station, which is attached to the ACC.
Inside, the concourses are a good size and washroom facilities are ample.
As with most basketball destinations, ticket prices can get up to the absolute ridiculous. You do have the opportunity to catch a Raptors game for about $12 a ticket in one corner in the upper deck. Prices again get silly as you get one section over or in an opposite corner; the prices will triple. Watch for key games. For example, tickets for when Chris Bosh's Heat come to town START at $80! Concession prices are on the higher side and parking can also get up there. Make sure that you hunt for the right deal when going to the Raptors game, otherwise you may feel quite unsatisfied when calculating the final tab.
An extra point for Raptors PA announcer Herbie, who has been with the team since the beginning, and brings a whole lot of energy to the game.
An extra point for the camouflage uniforms the Raps wore in support of the Canadian Forces.
An extra point for the unique Raptors logo painted behind the baseline on the court. It looks like a 3-dimensional placard on television.
The Raptors are at a crossroads in their existence. The inferiority complex felt by fans has led to some serious apathy, and that is a bit scary for the basketball scene in Canada. Many believe that the answer is waiting in free-agent to be, Kid Canada, Steve Nash. However, it is clear that the Raptors need some sort of drawing card to bring the fans back to The Hangar.
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.
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