WE THE NORTH – A Raptors Game-Day Guide
By Jim Bamboulis.
One of the Hottest Tickets in Town
The Toronto Raptors have become one of the hottest tickets in town. And Raptors fans can’t contain their excitement whenever the team plays a home game at Air Canada Centre. Basketball lovers of all ages, from all corners of the city arrive in a festive mood, adding to the already electric atmosphere in the air.
The energy builds as you get closer to the stadium and by the time you arrive in Maple Leaf Square you’ll find thousands of people in team colours, the music pumping and chants of “Let’s go Raptors” echoing on the streets.
The Raptors’ Home: Air Canada Centre
But first you need to get there. Since 1999, the team has called Air Canada Centre home. Located at the foot of the city off York Street right next to Union Station you can choose to deal with the traffic and park your vehicle in one of 13,000 parking spaces in and around the stadium. Or, better yet, give yourself a stress-free experience by using public transportation. Get off at Union Station, follow the signs (and crowd) to the indoor walkway that connects the station with the stadium. After a 5-minute walk, you arrive at Gate 1, a central meeting place for fans.
In order to get the most out of a Raptors game, it’s best to get close to the stadium a bit before game time. Hit Maple Leaf Square, also known as Jurassic Park during playoffs, located just west of the stadium. Grab a hot dog from one of the vendors or if you want a complete game-day experience, step into Real Sports Bar & Grill located next to the stadium. It’s best to call ahead and make a reservation because it’s one of the most popular spots downtown on game days. And for good reason. This place is 25,000 square feet of pure sports atmosphere. Here, you can eat and drink while being surrounded by countless big screen TVs including one that is two storeys high!
If you want a somewhat quieter and more refined pre- and post-game dining and drinking environment, choose E11ven located next to Real Sports. For those who want to get away from the heavy crowds and still be in the midst of an energetic atmosphere, a block north, Front Street West is loaded with casual dining spots.
Catch the Excitement at Maple Leaf Square
Inside the ACC the energy is amplified and fans get a very intimate, up close and personal view of the players. If you don’t have tickets, you can watch the game for free on a big 24-metre screen in Maple Leaf Square. At any given time during the game, up to 5,000 die-hard fans are standing, watching and cheering the home team, even in chilly weather conditions. Ask anyone if they mind the cold weather and nobody will be complaining.
The Raptors have had a fair amount of success on the court over the past couple of seasons and expectations continue to rise. In 2013, excitement for the team intensified further when it was announced that Toronto native and international music superstar, Drake was to become the team’s Global Ambassador. His vision and incredible efforts to put Toronto front and centre on the international basketball stage have certainly paid off. The city was awarded and is getting ready to host the 65th annual NBA All-Star Game on February 14, 2016. It will be the first time this game will be held outside of the United States.
About the Author
Jim Bamboulis is a professional Producer and Host, who during his 16-year media career has worked at various national and international TV networks, including CTV, CBC Sports, Lonely Planet TV and The Score. A passionate travel and food lover, Jim established Travel Mammal, an online travel magazine illustrating travel, food and cultural experiences worldwide since 2011.