Scotiabank Arena – Toronto Raptors
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43
Scotiabank Arena 40 Bay St Toronto, ON M5J 2X2
Year Opened: 1999
We The North … And Not Going Anywhere
Toronto has been known as a hockey town seemingly since it was first settled. The Maple Leafs have dominated the sports landscape in the city since the turn of the century … the 20th Century. In 1995, John Bitove Jr. and his group brought the expansion Toronto Raptors to the National Basketball Association. Starting their basketball life in the cavernous SkyDome, it seemed the Raptors would endure some growing pains in the tongue-in-cheek centre of the hockey universe. After an ownership battle and struggle to secure a permanent, basketball appropriate home for the team, the Raptors would be purchased and become part of the larger Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, along with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto FC. Through ups and downs as well as star players coming and going, the Raptors existence culminated with the 2019 NBA Championship. Understandably, the Raptors became a hot ticket and the toast of the town. A few years have passed since Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry led the Raptors to the promised land and the staying power of the Raptors is starting to show. The popularity of the Raptors and NBA in Toronto is as strong as ever. Toronto is not just a hockey town anymore!
Food & Beverage 5
It is difficult to believe that each year the concessions at Scotiabank Arena improve, but somehow they do. Fans can still be treated to tried and true brands like Pizza Pizza and Tim Hortons as well as favourites that have been around for years. St. Patties is the spot for gourmet burgers. Hogtown Gourmet Hot Dogs provides exactly what it sounds like and Mac & Cheese Boutique provides a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches along with macaroni and cheese concoctions. Hot Stove Carve offers some serious prime rib and turkey sandwiches. Even more outside the box options include Edo Sushi, and some healthier fare from Grains and Greens. New to the lineup and not to be missed are even more unique items from Noodle Bro and an array of roti options from Wicked Carib. Of course popcorn, nachos and other arena staples are available.
The days of just having regular domestic beer at sporting events are long gone. There are a ton of beer options around Scotiabank Arena including Creemore, Rickards Red, Coors Banquet and Sol to name a few. Seltzers, Smirnoff Vodka, wine and Crown Royal are all available at a variety of bars and stands. The centerpiece stage for suds is the Molson Canadian Brewhouse in the 100 level concourse. Although the giant beer kettles are no longer beside the bar, there is still plenty of space at the bar to grab a drink and wait for friends. Coca-Cola products are the soft drink of choice at Scotiabank Arena and Tim Hortons beverages are also found in Scotiabank. The Scotiabank Arena website offers good insight into the concession scene in Toronto.
What was originally the Air Canada Centre was built in the old Toronto Postal Delivery Building. The richest naming rights deal in sports was signed in 2018 by Scotiabank and rechristened the site Scotiabank Arena. Scotiabank Arena is nestled between Bay Street, Lakeshore and Maple Leaf Square. The Bay Street side is the official front of the building and the visage of the old postal building can still be seen. However, fans will mostly congregate and enter the building on the opposite side from Maple Leaf Square. At the end of Raptors Way, the square is home to what is known as Jurassic Park during the playoffs and features a massive videoboard on the outer wall for fans to watch along. The Galleria is on the north side of the building and connects Scotiabank Arena with Union Station and houses the main box office and another main entrance. Remnants of the Postal Building sign can be found for those explorers who are interested in the history. The massive sculpture “Search Light Star Light Spot Light” welcomes fans to the Scotiabank Arena and is one of the buildings iconic outdoor features.
Inside the building fans are drawn into the 100 level concourse. For those fans who enjoy exploring, there are plenty of classic pictures around the concourses of memorable Raptor moments along with Maple Leaf moments, of course. The main team store is connected to the Galleria from the concourse. The pregame show is broadcast from just inside the Galleria entrance and fans who wish to catch some are able.
When entering the two tier seating bowl, it is clear that Scotiabank Arena is the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs with a litany of Stanley Cup and retired number banners in the rafters. To the east of the crystal clear center video board, which is not as overbearing as some of the newer ones, hang three Raptor banners. One hangs for the seven Atlantic Division titles. The other two are for the 2019 Eastern Conference Championship and 2019 World Champions. The World Championship banner is unique in that it features the names of all the members of the 2019 team in the border. The upper bowl at Scotiabank Arena is pretty steep and allows fans to feel that they are on top of the action. Luxury boxes are between the upper and lower bowl and the ends of the arena also have boxes and social areas.
The days of Red Auerbach’s simple basketball presentation are long gone. The gameday atmosphere for the Raptors is highly produced with lots of music and activity. The pregame rituals feature the Raptor mascot and the North Side Crew multi-gender dance group. Music plays throughout the game with traditional basketball organ and synthesizer. The in-house DJ, 4Korners spins the tracks and there is pretty much no down time. The Raptor mascot is one of the best in the league and has a number of interesting spots during the production.
There are very, very few arenas with a better location than Scotiabank Arena. Right in the heart of downtown Toronto, Scotiabank Arena is perfectly situated to take advantage of all that downtown has to offer. There are a ton of sports options in Toronto for fans to take advantage of. The Raptors share Scotiabank with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL. Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB, is just west of Scotiabank Arena. Exhibition Place is close to the waterfront, just west of downtown, and is home to BMO Field, home of Toronto FC and the Toronto Argonauts. Coca-Cola Coliseum is also found at Exhibition Place and is the home of the AHL affiliate of the Leafs, the Toronto Marlies. The old Maple Leaf Gardens still stands and is a fantastic venue for Toronto Metropolitan University where the Bold play hockey and basketball. Just north of downtown is the University of Toronto where the Varsity Blues basketball team plays at the Goldring Centre, the football team plays at Varsity Stadium and hockey team plays at Varsity Arena. York University is in the north end of the city and is home to Lions football, hockey and basketball. The Toronto Rock of the NLL have recently moved out of Scotiabank Arena and to FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton. Fans may also consider the drive to Mississauga, a suburb West of Toronto, to catch Raptors 905, the G-League affiliate of the Raptors.
Outside of sporting options, there are a plethora of other things to do in Toronto. Harbourfront always has something going on. The CN Tower is among the top tourist attractions in Canada and Ripley’s Aquarium, at its base, is worth checking out as well. The iconic Eaton Centre is a top notch spot for shopping. Also, Toronto ranks a live theatre scene that is second only to Broadway in New York City. All of those are within walking distance of Scotiabank Arena. Also, all sports fans should consider a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame, which houses, among other things, the Stanley Cup.
There are also countless spots within walking distance of the arena for pre or post game food and drink. Real Sports is just on the other side of Maple Leaf Square. Other options include The Loose Moose, The Fox, Miller Tavern, e11even and Hoops are excellent choices. For a truly unique experience, fans should consider reserving a spot in the revolving restaurant at the top of the CN Tower to enjoy excellent cuisine and the best view in the city.
There are also a number of options for fans who wish to stay near the arena. The Westin Harbour Castle and Le Germain Hotel are among the closest. Staying downtown is going to be pricey.
Toronto Raptors fans are among the best in the NBA. The Raptors are once again routinely selling out games at Scotiabank Arena. At the time of this review, the Raptors were ranked third in overall attendance. As compared to fans at a Maple Leafs game, Raptors fans are much louder and more boisterous. However, they also tend to be late arriving, like Leaf fans. The magic happens when the Raptors hit the playoffs and thousands of fans turn Maple Leaf Square into Jurassic Park. Raptor fans were the first to do this.
Toronto traffic can be pretty rough. Getting to the Scotiabank Arena from the north, east or west can be very challenging, especially for weekday evening games. The Don Valley Parkway in the east, Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard all get congested fairly regularly and can cause fans significant frustration driving to the game. On the flip side, however, Scotiabank Arena is attached to Union Station, which offers easy access to the TTC subway, GO Transit trains and Via Rail trains. Fans who are interested in taking public transit to the game should check the TTC or GO Transit websites for schedules, fares and maps.
Getting around the Scotiabank Arena is not terribly 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 the coronavirus pandemic protocols and security protocols are constantly changing. Stadium Journey emplors fans to consult the Scotiabank Arena and Toronto Raptors websites to get the most up to date security and protocol information possible.
Return on Investment 3
The days of picking up a Raptors ticket in the Sprite Zone for $12 are long gone. Depending on the date and opponent, those same tickets are going for $65 or $89. The Raptors are now one of the most expensive tickets in the league, and seats can go all the way up to $300. Concession prices are a bit on the higher side and parking can be found for around $20. The Raptors do what they can to create the best possible environment and provide a good return, but the investment is now significant.
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.
An extra mark for Toronto’s hosting of the first ever NBA game all the way back in 1946. The Toronto Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers at Maple Leaf Gardens.
An extra mark for superfan Nav Batia, who has received his fair share of fame with the success of the Raptors.
WIth the Toronto Raptors continuing successfully on and off the court, it is obvious that the team has taken a big bite out of the entertainment dollar in Toronto. No longer can Toronto be simply viewed as a Maple Leafs town. WeTheNorth has blown the doors open and it is clear that the Raptors are here to stay as a force in the Toronto sports market. NBA fans need to check out one of the best experiences in basketball!
Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9 and on Instagram.