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Raptors to play without fans in Tampa for now

There's been a pause in admittance of fans due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers across west central Florida.

The Associated Press

The Toronto Raptors won’t have fans at home games in Tampa, Florida, until at least Feb. 5.

Vinik Sports Group, which owns the Tampa Bay Lightning and Amalie Arena, announced Saturday the organization wouldn’t admit fans because coronavirus cases in the area have “risen sharply.”

Florida reported nearly 20,000 new cases on Friday as the pandemic surges there. The state has recorded more than 1.4 million cases since the pandemic began.

“We are not comfortable bringing large numbers of fans indoors to watch hockey or basketball right now,” said Steve Griggs, CEO for Vinik Sports Group and the Lightning. “We are hopeful to reopen the arena soon after we see declining rates and better overall numbers.”

The Raptors were one of about a half dozen NBA teams to permit a limited number of fans at home games, with 3,800 tickets available for each game.

Because of Canada’s border restrictions and rising COVID-19 cases, the Raptors were forced to play their home games out of Tampa for at least the first half of the season.

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