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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

Scotiabank Arena – Toronto Raptors


Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey



Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43

Scotiabank Arena 40 Bay St Toronto, ON M5J 2X2


Year Opened: 1999

Capacity: 19,800


 

Time for New North


The recent news that Vince Carter was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is big for the city of Toronto and the Toronto Raptors.  The location of the very first NBA game with the Toronto Huskies and New York Knicks is finally getting a member of the Hall of Fame. 


Although Vince Carter played for seven other teams and was technically not drafted by the Raptors, his formative years in the NBA were wearing purple.  Carter’s arrival in Toronto coincided with the moving of the team from the gargantuan SkyDome to the sparkling new Air Canada Centre.  Many Raptor fans credit Carter for helping build basketball in Toronto as well as the rest of the country.


In 1999 the Raptors, along with the Toronto Maple Leafs, also owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, moved to their current home, now known as Scotiabank Arena.  The building was once the Canada Post Delivery Building and the arena has been renovated several times.  Located in the heart of Toronto, Scotiabank Arena provides the Raptors with a premier venue to play in and has become one of the best experiences in the NBA.


Food & Beverage 5

Scotiabank Arena provides a premium array of concessions that will allow fans to enjoy just about anything they can imagine at the arena.  The Scotiabank Arena website does a pretty good job of outlining the culinary options allowing fans the opportunity to plan.  Also very handy on the website is the Specialty Food Guide which outlines vegan, kosher, halal, and gluten-free options. 


Some of the stands that fans may wish to consider include Hot Stove Carve for prime rib sandwiches; Mac & Cheese for a variety of macaroni and cheese concoctions; Noodle & Bao for Asian noodles and sandwiches; Poutinerie for a variety of different poutine options; St. Patties for burgers; Panini Sandwich Shop for a variety of deli sandwiches; Wicked Carib for the Caribbean fare; Edo for sushi; Hogtown for a huge selection of unique hot dogs; and Canadian favourite brands Tim Hortons and Pizza Pizza. 


All of the expected arena items like popcorn and pretzels are also available.  The new “grab and go” areas that are popping up in stadiums and arenas can also be found in Scotiabank Arena.  Designed to get fans in and out quickly, the gated areas offer a quick selection and fast exit.  Coca-Cola products are the soft drink selections.  There are several locations for fans to get a huge variety of alcoholic beverages.  The Molson Canadian Brewhouse on the 100 level is one of the most popular bar areas. 


The Coors Light Chill Zone on the second level, above the pregame location, is another great spot to hang out pre-game.  The beer selection is as good at Scotiabank Arena as anywhere else in the NBA and full bar service is available in many areas also.  There is not much that a fan could want and not find at Scotiabank Arena.


Atmosphere 5

Scotiabank Arena was originally the Toronto Postal Delivery Building.  The original facade is found at the “front” on Bay Street, however, most patrons will enter from either the north, where the arena is joined to Union Station at the Galleria, or the west where Maple Leaf Square can be found.  The “Search Light Star Light Spot Light” structure is an iconic piece of art that was also part of the original Air Canada Centre logo and is one of the exterior highlights. 


A massive video board is found on the building exterior and is a major piece of “Jurassic Park,” the once innovative gathering area that is electric for Raptor playoff games.  Legends Row, a collection of bronze statues of Toronto Maple Leaf greats, is also found in Maple Leaf Square.


When fans enter the Scotiabank Arena, they are greeted with a decent-sized concourse.  If there is a “main” entrance, it would be through the Galleria on the north side and empties into the largest interior gathering area.  The area where the pregame shows for television are shot is just to the right of the Galleria entrance.  The walls of the concourse are plastered with either ads or framed photos of Raptors, Maple Leafs, or concert moments. 


The seating bowl is two-tiered and although fans are bombarded with Maple Leafs nostalgia, there are a couple of Toronto Raptors nods.  The court is east-west oriented and the spot to get that perfect centre court logo picture is from the south.  A huge, yet not overwhelming, state-of-the-art video board hangs above centre court.  Raptors banners hang in the centre of the arena with the Inaugural Season banner to the east and Atlantic Division Champions, 2019 Conference Champions, and 2019 World Champions banners to the west.


The gameday production at a Toronto Raptors game begins as soon as the gates open.  Members of the promo team can be found parading around the lower concourse and interacting with fans.  Leading cheers, dancing with a circa 90’s boombox, and allowing fans to shoot a novelty basketball in a shoulder-mounted basket, the team’s goal is clearly to raise the energy and excitement of the fans entering the building. 


Digital interactivity is one of the biggest changes in the last decade with fans having the opportunity to participate in live polls displayed on the video board, order food, and purchase 50/50 tickets.  The video board is used to the max with ads, pregame analysis, and interviews before the tip-off even happens.  That push for energy continues throughout the game where it is non-stop action, even when the game pauses. 


The Northside Crew, one of the first diverse dance groups in the NBA, performs during the pregame and throughout the game.  The Raptor, Toronto’s mascot, is among the most underrated in the league and his antics are legendary locally.  The Raptors’ presence is felt throughout the game and he is very visible.  It is probably not possible for the Toronto Raptors to pack anything else into the time from pregame to the final buzzer.



Neighbourhood 5

Scotiabank Arena is located in the South Core neighbourhood of Downtown Toronto, immediately adjacent to Harbourfront.  It is hard to argue that there is an arena that is better located in the entire NBA.  There are a plethora of pre and post-game options for food and drink, whether on Front Street or on the streets that cross it. 


Some of the options include The Loose Moose, Kelly’s Landing, Real Sports, e11even, Taverna Mercatto, Hoops, Miller Tavern, The Fox, and NBA Courtside, to name a few.   There are also several fast food and chain restaurants in the area.  The hot dog carts, which are scattered near the arena, are among the best anywhere and should also be considered for a quick bite before or after the game.


For other sporting options in the city, fans are almost overloaded with options.  Scotiabank Arena is also home to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL.  Heading west, fans will come to the Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB.  Further west is BMO Field, home of Toronto FC of MLS and the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL.  BMO is also a host of the next World Cup.  Heading north of Scotiabank Arena will bring fans to the University District. 


The Toronto Metro Bold play hockey and basketball in the former Maple Leaf Gardens, as do Toronto’s PWHL team.  The University of Toronto campus is nearby and the Varsity Blues field a full complement of teams including football, hockey, and basketball.  At the northern edge of the city is York University, home of the Lions football, hockey, and basketball teams. 


Also on the York Campus are the National Bank Open Tennis Tournament and York United FC and Toronto FC II soccer teams.  That doesn’t even include Horse Racing or Auto Racing. Of course, there are also a ton of tourist options in the city.  Fans should consider hanging out at Harbourfront, the CN Tower, or Ripley’s Aquarium.  A must when in Toronto is a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame. 


Fans 5

The days of the championship-caliber team in Toronto are over for now. With that, Raptors fans have proven to be resilient, remaining among the strongest supporters in the NBA. The drop in fan support from the 2022-2023 season is less than 100 fans per game. The Raptors have averaged over 19,600 fans per game in the 2023-2024 season, good for 7th in the competitive NBA. 


Raptor fans tend to be more rowdy and loud than Maple Leaf fans, although they are not over the top.  The Raptors also tend to have a more diverse fanbase.  In the playoffs, inside and outside Scotiabank Arena is truly special and Jurassic Park is a sight to be seen.

 

Access 4

Getting to the Scotiabank Arena by car will force fans to traverse the Toronto traffic, which can be a real challenge.  The Lakeshore is quite far from Highway 401 in the north, so using Lakeshore Blvd or the Gardiner Expressway to travel east or west along the lake will be required.  There are plenty of parking options around which can be found for $20 or more.


The real travesty is that the City of Toronto has not taken any lessons from other cities when events are put on.  Upon exiting Scotiabank Arena, Toronto Police are not present aiding in the movement of traffic, leaving drivers on their own to get out of downtown.  On the plus side, public transit downtown is very good. Union Station is attached to the Scotiabank Arena.  TTC subways and GO Transit trains along with Via Rail trains can be found here.  Fans should check the TTC or GO Transit websites for maps, fares, and schedules.


Getting around the Scotiabank Arena is not difficult, however, fans need to keep in mind that there is rarely less than a full house in the arena and intermissions will be congested.  Washroom facilities are more than adequate but will have lineups during intermissions as well. 


With security protocols and procedures in constant flux, Stadium Journey strongly suggests visiting the Toronto Raptors and Scotiabank Arena websites for the most up-to-date security information before heading to the arena.



Return on Investment 3

As with most NBA experiences, taking in a game is not a cheap experience.  Tickets for the Raptors are available starting between $50 and $75 on the secondary market.  Demand remains high for tickets, although finding them may not be too hard, the price may not be what fans are looking for.  It will be interesting to see if ticket prices on the secondary market drop as the Raptors have jumped into rebuild mode with both feet. 


Parking will run at least $20 and concessions are on the expensive side.  According to media reports, the Raptors had the 12th most expensive tickets and were 11th in Fan Cost Index in the NBA in 2022.  Fans will have a great time at a Raptors game and it is wall-to-wall entertainment and energy, however, they should be prepared to pay for it!


Extras 4

An extra mark for Toronto’s claim to the very first NBA game, which was played at Maple Leaf Gardens with the Toronto Huskies and New York Knicks in 1946.


An extra mark for Toronto’s celebrity factor where Nav Bhatia has become a local celebrity sitting courtside for every game since day one.  Fans may also get a glimpse of Drake, who often sits near the Raptors bench.


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 embracing their role as Canada’s team.


Final Thoughts

Taking in a Toronto Raptors game is an event that fans will love.  The entertainment is top notch and the Scotiabank Arena is an excellent venue with a terrific location in one of the most dynamic, tourist-friendly cities in the world.  Basketball fans should not shy on the Raptors because of their relative youth as a franchise.  They are one of the best experiences around.


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Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on YouTube, Twitter, Threads and Instagram @profan9.

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