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Volume 26 No. 45

Franchises

Fans at Jurassic Park are mostly young, and represent a cross-section of Toronto's broad ethnic diversity
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Raptors host the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals tonight, and the "college vibe" of the "Jurassic Park" area outside Scotiabank Arena "makes for one of basketball's best parties," according to Ian Harrison of the AP. For every Raptors home or away playoff game, thousands "gather to watch on the big screen fixed to the arena's west wall." When the Raptors host Game 1 tonight, the party "will get cranked up to a whole new level." The fans who gather at Jurassic Park are "mostly young, in their late teens or 20's, and represent a cross-section of Toronto's broad ethnic diversity." The area has been "so successful" that Toronto suburbs Mississauga and Brampton are "opening their very own versions of Jurassic Park" for the Finals. Fans at Jurassic Park, for safety reasons, are "now split into five distinct viewing areas." The one right outside the arena "boasts multiple food and beverage concessions, even a team store outlet." The area has an "official corporate sponsor, a bank, and there's plenty more advertising plastered around." The official capacity for Jurassic Park is "about 5,000 and crowds start gathering more than five hours before tipoff" (AP, 5/29). GLOBAL NEWS' Ryan Rocca notes there was "already a large line to get into the viewing party outside of Scotiabank Arena" at 6:00am ET this morning. Fans cannot enter Jurassic Park "until 7 p.m., but they were already chanting, 'Let’s go Raptors,' in the early-morning lineup" (GLOBALNEWS.ca, 5/30).

SETTING THE SCENE: In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes the celebration in Toronto "hasn't really slowed down much since Saturday night," when the Raptors clinched their first NBA Finals berth. Half of the city is "wearing Raptors gear" while the other half is "out trying to buy some." Toronto as a sporting city has "never been this excited, this nervous and this frenetic, all at the very same time" (TORONTO SUN, 5/30). ESPN's Nick Friedell said, "I have never seen a city this excited in the moment. ... This city is rocking. It's all anybody is talking about. It's all anybody is focused upon" ("OTL," ESPN, 5/29). ESPN's Doris Burke: "You can walk around the city and feel this incredible amount of joy" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 5/30). The GLOBE & MAIL's Rachel Brady notes this is the first time the NBA Finals "will be played outside" the U.S. The Raptors franchise has "never seen anything like" yesterday's "gigantic gathering of media" on their home court (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/30). Former NBAer Chris Bosh, who played the first seven years of his career with the Raptors, said, "It's amazing just being here back in the city, seeing how much it's grown, seeing how much the fans are thriving" ("GMA," ABC, 5/30).

FOR THE PEOPLE: The CP reported one of Canada's largest theater chains "will be airing" Raptors playoff games for free at 33 cinemas across the country. Toronto-based Cineplex said that it "reached a deal" with Raptors owner MLSEto air the games. MLSE has also "struck deals with 10 cities to set up local versions of Jurassic Park" that has been the "scene of massive celebrations during the team's historic playoff run." The free public broadcasts of the game "will take place in nine cities across Ontario as well as Halifax" (CP, 5/29).

BIG BET PAYS OFF: In Toronto, Bruce Arthur writes everything Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri built "seems almost inevitable in retrospect, but a lot of sports executives kick the can down the road and keep their job rather than roll the biggest dice." Ujiri was "willing to take the risk, and bet on everything he had built here," and he "wound up with an awe-inspiring superstar" in Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors reaching the NBA Finals is "such a big moment for so many." Ujiri has "made it his mission to turn this backwater franchise into a real thing, into something durable and serious" (TORONTO STAR, 5/30). TSN.ca's Josh Lewenberg wrote the Raptors heading into this season were "making more money than ever before," were a "perennial playoff team and would have continued to be with the personnel they had in place." Ujiri had "preached patience for years, sticking with many of the guys he inherited from the previous regime." He "certainly could have opted for the status quo." Lewenberg: "Many others would have. Why rock the boat?" But Ujiri "wanted more" because good "wasn't good enough" (TSN.ca, 5/29).

The 49ers will be the NFL's first team to "create a fan club for members of the LGBTQ plus community," according to Chris Biderman of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The team announced yesterday the "creation of 49ers Pride designed to support and engage LGBTQ fans and allies." The fan club will be a "network for the community to participate in philanthropic and social events, watch parties for 49ers games, and unique opportunities such as marching with members of the organization at the San Francisco Pride parade next month." 49ers President Al Guido said that they "weren’t concerned with any negative backlash as the team has long been connected to progressive initiatives while owners throughout the NFL are predominately conservative leaning." Guido: "Our organization has always been about diversity and inclusion and we’re going to continue doing those things" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/30). Jamie Neal, who writes for the LGBTQ+-focused blog Outsports, said that though this "'may seem like something small,' she feels like she would be welcomed and supported at Levi's Stadium or even by the players and staff of the team." Neal: "It means a ton as someone who spent a good amount of time in the press box and locker room as a writer" (NBCSPORTSBAYAREA.com, 5/29).