TORONTO — Alex Brown says he’s been wearing his Toronto Raptors jersey ever since the team began their historic playoff run.
The 20-year-old says connecting with others who love the team, particularly at the Jurassic Park fan zone outside the Raptors’ arena, has helped boost his spirits while he’s been living on the streets for the last two and a half months.
“The fans got me feeling happy about myself,” he said. “I don’t feel down, it’s gotten me up and going.”
Fans have been packing Jurassic Park and surrounding areas ever since the Raptors made the playoffs. The basketball team, which is in the Finals for the first time, leads 2-1 going into Friday’s game in Oakland, Calif.
On Friday morning — hours before tip off — Brown was among the first in line to get into the fan zone where games are broadcast. He had been there since 10:30 p.m. the night before and said he’s slept in line before several games.
“Waiting in line for Jurassic Park is like waiting in line for a roller-coaster at Canada’s Wonderland,” he said. “It’s a lot of excitement and intensity.”
Originally from Barrie, Ont., Brown said he’s been homeless since he and his girlfriend broke up and he had to leave their apartment.
He said Raptors fans and employees of Scotiabank Arena have been checking in on him when he spends time in the area, and have even bought food for him.
“They treat me with a lot of respect and a lot of care,” he said.
Brown said he previously worked odd jobs through a temp agency and plans to save some money to find a place to live. But for now, he wants to be close to the Raptors celebrations.
Ryan Trivino understands the draw of gathering at the outdoor fan zone.
The 28-year-old said he was among the fans who first started congregating in the area in April 2014, when the Raptors faced the Brooklyn Nets.
Trivino said he and some friends went downtown to buy tickets to the game but found them too expensive. When they couldn’t find a spot at bars in the area, the group realized a big screen outside the area had started broadcasting the game.
“I had no idea that they did that or if the games were broadcast like that before,” he said, adding that he and his friends decided to watch the game outdoors. “It wasn’t what it is now — Jurassic Park — there were no fences, no gates, no security, there was nothing.”
Trivino and his friends continued watching other games in that series outdoors, and other fans followed suit. Over several weeks, the area started getting packed and security staff were brought in he said.
“Now if I want to watch the game from Jurassic Park, I have to line up like 12 hours early just to get a spot in the same place I was years ago,” he said. “I’ll never get to enjoy the game the same way as before, but it makes me happy to see the support from everyone that wants to be there to show some love for the Raptors.”
On Friday, Gavin Reardon and Ethan Primeau were among those in line to get in to the fan zone. The two friends said they woke up at 5:30 a.m. to drive about three hours from Kincardine, Ont., to secure a spot.
“I had to check out all the buzz,” said Primeau.
Amanda Rose, who was also in line, said it was her first time lining up for Jurassic Park.
“I just want to experience this,” said the Oshawa, Ont., resident. “I just want to be around the energy and spirit of people and how much fun it is and how big of a party it is.”
Alanna Rizza , The Canadian Press