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Toronto Raptors reducing arena capacity by half

Toronto Raptors took on the Washington Wizaards at the Scotiabank Arena

TORONTO, ON - October 20 Fans show their support just before the opening tip. The Toronto Raptors took on the Washington Wizards in the Raptors home opener at the Scotiabank Arena. In addition to the NBA basketball action, there was a pre-game indigenous land acknowledgement as well as the usual fan hoopla for the sold-out crowd. October 20 2021 (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Toronto Star via Getty Images

The Raptors have returned to playing their home games in Toronto.

But it’s not business as usual as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Unvaccinated players will no longer be permitted to travel to Canada starting next month. Beginning Saturday, the Raptors will also reduce arena capacity by 50%, as directed by Ontario.

Raptors release:

“As announced by the province this afternoon, capacities for events at MLSE venues, including Maple Leaf and Raptors games at Scotiabank Arena, will be reduced to fifty per cent capacities effective Saturday as we all work together to prioritize public health with increasing COVID-19 cases in Ontario. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, MLSE remains fully supportive of the province’s decision, and we continue to work closely with our government and public health partners to protect against the spread of COVID-19 within our community. Our ticketing team is currently working through the logistics of implementing this change and will provide follow up details to all ticket holders within 24 hours. Additionally, as was being planned prior to today’s capacity announcement, MLSE’s venue operations team will implement an enhanced mask protocol within the venue beginning with Saturday’s Raptors game called “Operation Mask Up (or out)” that requires all attendees to strictly adhere to all mask-wearing protocols or risk ejection from the building. MLSE also strongly encourages all fans to get vaccinated and closely follow all public health protocols to protect each other and our community at large.”

This might make sense as a temporary measure while boosters are not yet widely available in Ontario.

The province previously implemented a far more effective requirement than distancing and masking for reducing coronavirus transmission: Vaccination. Fully vaccinated people are less likely to contract and spread coronavirus (and less likely to have severe outcomes if they have a rare breakthrough case). However, vaccine efficacy can fade over time, necessitating boosters.

As boosters become widely available, Ontario can return to the previous standard, allowing a full arena of fully vaccinated fans. That’ll provide a positive incentive for people to get inoculation that keeps them and those around them safer. It’d also allow thousands more fans to attend games – and allow the Raptors to sell more tickets, maximizing revenue that is split with players.

This model makes less sense for teams in the United States, where boosters are already widely available.