The Toronto Raptors will reopen their practice facility beginning next week, providing “limited access” to the OVO Athletic Centre for player workouts.
The Raptors say they are working closely with local government, infectious disease experts, and public health authorities, and strict protocols have been designed to ensure a safe, controlled, and healthy environment.
“The safety of our players, staff and community is paramount,” the team said in a media release. “The Raptors are committed to adhering to public health guidelines and government directives.”
The announcement comes on the same day that Ontario began allowing professional sport training facilities to reopen.
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“Our top priority remains the health and safety of all Ontarians,” said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. “As we prepare for a safe and gradual reopening of the economy, we have been working closely with public health experts and our professional sport teams to prepare for a return to play when it is safe to do so.”
Players will have the option to use the facility, with access only to the court for activities such as shooting — activities that can’t be done at home. Other areas like the locker rooms, weight rooms, medical facilities, and offices will remain closed.
The team has already ensured that players have weights and workout equipment to use at their homes.
NBA guidelines allow for four players at a time in practice facilities, though the Raptors have decided at this time to just allow one player in the building at one time, with one coach present.
The Raptors will go to great lengths to ensure impeccable hygiene, as staff members will wear gloves and masks at all times, while players will wear masks except when on court. A thorough cleaning of all spaces and equipment, including basketballs, will occur before and after each player uses the building.
Symptom and temperature checks will also be done by Raptors medical staff before anyone enters the building. In addition, there will be no media, public, or general staff access to the building, and security will be in place outside the facility to ensure physical distancing.
What’s not clear at the moment is how many players will use the facility, as many of them have returned to their offseason homes in the United States or overseas, with Raptors GM Bobby Webster saying it will depend on each player’s immigration status.
In terms of whether or not players that are currently based in the US will even be permitted to cross the boarder and return to Canada, Webster says it will be case-by-case depending on their immigration status. He said the Raptors aren’t looking for exceptions.
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“This is a critical sector for Ontario as sport represents more than $12.6 billion to Ontario’s economy and thousands of jobs across the province,” MacLeod added.
“We are pleased to see professional sports teams take a leading role in producing new rigorous protocols to keep their athletes safe, while allowing them to train in a voluntary and individualized manner.
“We look forward to seeing our athletes return to play in the not-too-distant future.”