Dedicated Toronto Raptors fans spent the last couple of days in tents and under tarps waiting to enter Jurassic Park ahead of what could be the final day of the NBA Finals.
The line outside Scotiabank Arena began forming on Saturday and as of Monday morning, had wrapped around the arena. Faithful fans with tents, tarps and umbrellas seemed unfazed by the downpour of rain, each one hoping for a chance to watch the game from inside Toronto’s dedicated fanzone.
“It’s gonna rain probably throughout the game,” said Will Pereira-Amaral, who drove to Toronto from Montreal to be one of the first in line at Jurassic Park. “We’re not leaving anywhere because we want see the Raptors bring it home after 24 years in the making. We’re going to witness sporting history in Canada.”
The Toronto Raptors are leading the series 3-1, which means that if the team beats the Golden State Warriors in Game 5, they could claim the NBA title.
The rain-soaked crowd patiently waiting outside Scotiabank Arena says they are confident the Raptors will emerge victorious.
“You know what’s down the street at the (Ripley’s) Aquarium, it’s the Larry O’Brien trophy, and its staying,” said Morgan Heise, who flew in from Saskatoon over the weekend for Game 5. “We’re taking it home tonight boys!”
Fans camped out as early as Saturday morning
Two basketball fans from Cambridge, Ontario, arrived at Jurassic Park around 12:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.
Armed with a tent, a butane stove and a cooler filled with food, the pair was ready to wait-out the elements to be first in the dedicated fanzone area.
“It is history in Ontario and Canada and I want to be there to witness it first-hand because it will probably never happen again,” Angie Taylor told CP24 on Saturday afternoon.
On Monday, Taylor and her friend Tyler Seaton were one of four people surprised when someone from Sobey’s showed up giving them tickets to watch the game inside the arena.
“It’s absolutely amazing. To me it didn’t matter if I was inside or outside. I just wanted to be here,” Taylor said while waving her ticket to the pack of cameras and reporters interviewing her.
Stoney-Creek resident Doug Tiessen, who was next in line with his son Zac, was stunned to receive the gifts.
“We came here not expecting this at all,” said Tiessen. “We didn’t even know anything like this would happen.”
While those lucky fans will be dry inside the arena, a spokesperson for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) said officials are keeping an eye on the sky for the fans outdoors in Jurassic Park and the overflow areas.
“We’ve got a system out of BMO field that actually tracks lighting storms as they roll in, so we can be up to speed and keep everybody safe here too with announcements,” said Michael Bartlett, head of community affairs for MLSE.
But for the dedicated fans who have waited 24 years for this moment, they’re not going to let the weather ruin their night.
Police prepared for Game 5 celebrations
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said that the force has resources available to them to help them deal with any security issues that may arise Monday night.
“It’s a sporting event but if we have to transition into a security event we will,” Saunders said earlier in the day. “We are looking forward to keeping it as a calm as possible and if people do misbehave or break the law they will be apprehended but we don’t want to go there because the focus should be on the Toronto Raptors.”
To date, the only arrests that have been made in connection with the Raptors celebrations are related to a singular incident last month where several people jumped on top of a police cruiser near Yonge-Dundas square.
Mayor plans to watch Game 5 at SickKids Hospital
Toronto’s Mayor John Tory said he will attend a watch party at The Hospital for Sick Children before heading down to Scotiabank Arena for tip off at 9 p.m.
The mayor said he expects to head out to Jurassic Park for at least a quarter of the game to meet some fans.
If the Toronto Raptors clinch the NBA title, it will be the city’s first championship across the so-called four big sporting leagues—the NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL—since the 1993 World Series.
In light of this, there has been some speculation about a potential victory parade held in the city. Tory has been mum on the details, saying he doesn’t want to jinx anything.