No fans for Raptors, Lightning amid virus surge

2:16 PM ET

Associated Press

The NBA’s Toronto Raptors and the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning won’t have fans at home games in Tampa, Florida, until at least Feb. 5.

Vinik Sports Group, which owns the Lightning and Amalie Arena, announced Saturday that 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 in Tampa for at least the first half of the season.

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