Scotiabank Arena – Toronto Raptors
We (Still) The North
The 2018-2019 season for the Toronto Raptors is surrounded by change. After finishing the 2018 season being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Raptors President Masai Ujiri created a serious shakeup in Toronto. Out were the NBA Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey and uber-popular all-star DeMar DeRozan. In are new coach Nick Nurse and MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard. With Leonard set to hit the free agent market after the 2018-19 season and LeBron James leaving the Eastern Conference for the glitz of Hollywood, the Raptors are all in on the season and are risking their short-term future for possibly their first appearance in the NBA Finals.
Hand in hand with the changes for the team on the court is a change on the marquee outside the arena. Gone is the Air Canada Centre. Now it is Scotiabank Arena. The Canadian bank signed a record setting $800 million deal over 20 years. Built in 1999, Scotiabank Arena was built on the site of the former Canada Postal Delivery Building. It was during construction in which the modern day Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment was created with the sale of the Toronto Raptors and their arena plan to Maple Leaf Gardens. Since then the Maple Leafs abandoned their own arena plan and MLSE would move towards the juggernaut sports management company that they are today.
Scotiabank Arena is as good an arena as anywhere in the NBA. A premium location combined with a fan base that has re-written expectations regarding fandom in the playoffs, Scotiabank Arena gives the Toronto Raptors a solid fan experience. Even with all of the changes in Raptorland, Raptor fans will still loudly proclaim that “We (Still) the North!”
Food & Beverage 5
The concession situation at Scotiabank Arena is as good as any in the NBA. There is a continuous examination at the arena of the concessions with seemingly subtle changes each year. One of the most popular spots is the Hogtown Gourmet Hot Dogs stand, which features a huge variety of original hot dog concoctions. Lord of the Fries offers a variety of plain and topped fries and poutine, MacCheesey features gourmet mac and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches while Porchetta & Co. has a variety of sandwiches. Shawarma, BBQ, burgers and carved sandwiches as well as old favorites like Pizza Pizza, Mr. Sub, Smoke’s Poutinerie and Tim Hortons are also easily found. Just about anything a fan is looking for can be found, even sushi!
Coca-Cola products are the soft drink option that is found throughout the arena. Over time, Scotiabank Arena has consistently improved the areas where alcohol is available and featured. The traditional beer guy or mobile stand can be found, but there are no less than eight bar areas in Scotiabank Arena, many featuring a full bar service. At the Molson Canadian Brewhouse in the 100 level concourse fans can inspect the huge copper kettles where beer for Scotiabank Arena is brewed on site. The variety of craft beer is expansive and fans will not be disappointed.
The exterior of Scotiabank Arena is attractive, covered in a greyish/silver siding with an adequate amount of glass on the west side of the building. The “front” of the building is on Bay Street, but it is actually the rear of the building, in Maple Leaf Square, which is far more interesting. The signature exterior sculpture, which has been in the front of Scotiabank Arena since the beginning, is called “Search Light, Star Light, Spot Light.” The main entrance is the entrance from the Galleria, on the north side, which links Scotiabank Arena with Union Station.
Upon entry to Scotiabank Arena, fans are thrust into the main concourse. Fans who are interested and patient are able to do a little bit of treasure hunting. Although they may not be all easily visible, the concourse walls are littered with classic pictures of Toronto Raptors, Maple Leafs and Rock moments along with other big Scotiabank Arena moments. Sports pictures do date back to Maple Leaf Gardens as well. Even regular visitors can continue to find new items.
The seating bowl of Scotiabank Arena features a regular 100 level seating bowl with a steep upper bowl, separated by a level of luxury boxes. The court runs from east to west, and the east and west ends of the arena have more luxury boxes as well as bars and the newest addition, the 600 Level Fan Deck. The massive, four sided, curved video board commands attention. Between the Maple Leaf banners on the north and south sides of the arena are the Raptors banners. Nearly lost in the shuffle, the Raptors boast a few division championship banners as well as an inaugural season banner. The Raptors continue to search for their first championship and have yet to honour their first player. For fans wishing to get the photo of the centre logo, the south side of the arena is the place to be.
The game day production at Scotiabank Arena is about what you would expect for an NBA team. The music is nearly constant and is a fairly general mix of hip-hop and traditional organ music. The association the Raptors have forged with Drake, which has been a very successful one, leads to a higher than normal playing of Drake songs. Raptor games also feature an in house DJ who spins tunes from the west seats. The Toronto mascot, The Raptor, is one of the best in the league performing stunts and interacting with the crowd. The North Side Crew, one of the few co-ed entertainment squads in the NBA, performs during down time. Overall, there is a ton of stuff happening at a Raptors game past the game itself.
There are a boatload of places that a fan can go within walking distance of Scotiabank Arena to get something to eat before or after the game. Front Street is a great place to start looking. There fans will find Jack Astor’s, Texas Lone Star Grill, Canyon Creek, Casey’s and Boston Pizza. All are recognizable and common chains. Fans who are looking for something a little more original should try Joe Badali’s, The Loose Moose, The Fox or Hoop’s. Right in Maple Leaf Square itself, fans will find the very popular Real Sports Bar and Grill. Real Sports is pretty huge and has almost limitless TV screens. A more refined culinary experience would be making reservations for a really nice dinner at 360, the revolving restaurant at the top of the CN Tower.
With all of the entertainment options in Toronto, it would be a good idea to spend an entire week. The CN Tower offers an unprecedented view of the city as well as other attractions including the Edge Walk. At the base of the CN Tower is the new Ripley’s Aquarium of Toronto. The Toronto Theatre District may only be rivalled by Broadway in Manhattan. There is plenty of shopping downtown especially at the iconic Eaton Centre. Hockey fans will demand to make a pilgrimage to the Hockey Hall of Fame. All of this doesn’t even include the various festivals and special events that take place in the city at various times. There is also no shortage of sporting options within the city as well. Scotiabank Arena is also the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Rock. Up the street at the Rogers Centre fans will find the Toronto Blue Jays. Just to the north is the University of Toronto, where the Varsity Blues field a whole host of athletic teams including football, basketball and hockey. To the west at Exhibition Place you will find BMO Field, home of Toronto FC and the Toronto Argonauts, and the Coca-Cola Coliseum, home of the Toronto Marlies.
There are a wide variety of places to stay downtown, however, one must be prepared to pay. Downtown is not a cheap place to stay. A decent option is the Strathcona. Another popular spot is the Westin Harbour Castle. If you are looking for something unique and an experience unto itself, try getting a room at the Royal York, one of the oldest, most prestigious hotels in the country.
Over time, Toronto Raptors fans have shown that they are among the best the NBA has to offer. Attendance has been very strong in Toronto over the past few seasons with the Raptors drawing basically capacity crowds each game. Toronto has ranked either third or fourth in average attendance at over 19,800 each season since 2016. Fans are loud and proud, but are as Toronto fans are, notoriously late arriving. Toronto fans have stepped up their game with playoff appearances with their playoff participation in Jurassic Park, in Maple Leaf Square. Jurassic Park is packed with some 5,000 fans who will watch the game from outside Scotiabank Arena on the video board in Maple Leaf Square. The NBA has yet to see another example of playoff fandom quite like Toronto.
Scotiabank Arena is located right downtown Toronto, north of the Harbourfront. It is immediately north of the Gardiner Expressway between the Don Valley Parkway and Highway 427. If you are coming from out of town then getting to the Gardiner may be a bit of a challenge as it is significantly south of Highway 401, the main highway, and Pearson International Airport. If you are coming from the west, a little trick is to get off of the Gardiner quickly and take Lakeshore Boulevard for the duration to Scotiabank Arena.
The direct link to Union Station from Scotiabank Arena is a fantastic option for fans. Union Station houses the TTC subway, Via Rail and GO Transit. Many patrons take the subway or GO Train when coming to Scotiabank Arena. If you are considering the public transit option, check out the GO Transit or TTC websites for maps, schedules and other planning tools to aid you in getting to Scotiabank Arena on time.
There are a number of surface and garage parking options right around Scotiabank Arena. Parking will not be cheap. A $15 tab is a pretty good find. Garages on Bremner Blvd by Jurassic Park offer a seriously close option, however you are looking at $35 or higher to park your car here. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to find parking. There are some prepaid parking options available, but nearly as many as you will find at a comparable arena in the United States. Check out ParkMe or Parking Panda if this interests you.
The ticket windows for Scotiabank Arena are found within the Galleria at the west end. Lineups are not normally an issue at the ticket windows, but the most popular entry point is through the Galleria. Increased security has definitely slowed down this process. Getting to the game early is the best plan, or entering at one of the exterior gates may be a better idea.
With the current climate of security in the major sports it is imperative that fans are fully aware of the security scenario at each major sports arena that they visit. Check the Raptors and Scotiabank Arena websites for up to date security information on banned items and baggage requirements.
Getting around Scotiabank Arena is not too bad. The washroom facilities are pretty good and lineups are only a reality during those peak times when you would expect a lineup for the washroom. The increased attendance has brought increased foot traffic in the concourses of course, however they are fairly spacious and getting around is not awful.
Return on Investment 3
Since the Raptors have joined the big time, the experience has become more and more expensive. Tickets prices fluctuate based on day of the week and opponent. Ticket prices run from a low of $53 up to $400 for court side seats. It wasn’t that long ago where upper bowl tickets for the Raptors could be had for $12. All lower bowl tickets for all games are over $100. Combine that with parking, which can be found for around $20 and concession prices that are not cheap and a trip to see the Raptors is not for those who make decisions on a whim. Although the experience is a great one, it is coming to the point where the investment is out-pacing the experience.
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. Canadians are taking back basketball with increased participation at all levels and still boast creator Dr. James Naismith as one of their own.
An extra mark for Toronto’s hosting of the first ever NBA game all the way back in 1946.
An extra mark for the Raptors’ association with rap star Drake. Officially a team ambassador, Drake’s court side appearances have helped given them an even more recognizable identity.
From their inception in 1995 to the present day, the Toronto Raptors have continued to evolve. Still searching for that elusive first NBA title, the Raptors are hoping that their big Kawhi Leonard move will once again fill Jurassic Park come the post season, and maybe even get them to the next level. Time will tell where the Raptors will end up, but until that point, the Raptors experience remains one of the NBA’s best.
Did you enjoy this content? Help support our work by becoming a supporter of Stadium Journey on Patreon. Supporter levels begin at just $2/month.
Fairmont Royal York
100 Front St W
Toronto, ON M5J 1E3
Latest Crowd Reviews
As the Raptors continue to compete for their first NBA title, Toronto fans have proven to be behind the team with all they have. Jurassic Park has been revolutionary in the NBA and Raptor fans are proving to be among the elite in the NBA. The team has been solid in the last few seasons and deep playoff runs have been the reward. Yet with each great season the supporters who claim “We The North” have higher expectations and an appearance in the NBA Finals are all that will satisfy the rabid crowd. The Raptors experience has matched the fans and has become an elite level experience in the NBA.
As far as bucket list basketball items go, the Toronto Raptors are on their way to putting themselves in the conversation. Through success on the court and their ability to show NBA fans Stateside that there is a whole new experience at the Air Canada Centre, the Toronto Raptors brand is becoming more and more well known. A trip to check out Jurassic Park may just make its way onto your personal basketball bucket list.