“People are coming from Moncton, from PEI,” says Gab LeVert, one of the people making JPH happen. “One guy is coming down from Cape Breton, then driving back tonight after the game because he has to work in the morning.”
LeVert is co-founder of Tidal League, the local basketball-centric events company that has been bringing JPH to life every game of the NBA finals. “It’s the best Jurassic Park in Canada,” he says, trash-talking the other outdoor watching venues that have popped up around the country in emulation of the OG Jurassic Park, outside the Raptors’ arena in Toronto. The Halifax version happens at Rogers Square, the covered couryard-ish space under the Convention Centre where Grafton Street used to be; one reason LeVert says it’s a quality Jurassic Park is there are loads of double-sided screens mounted from the ceiling of the space, to allow easy viewing of the game even from the street outside the JPH gates.
“Game one was electric,” LeVert says of the Jurassic Park Halifax energy. Game two, a cold night that saw the Raptors lose their only game of the best-of-seven series, was lacklustre at JPH, too. Game three on Wednesday was busy. Then game four on Friday night was “double or triple anything we’ve seen,” with the crowd of fans that couldn’t get into Rogers Square filling Sackville Street to the point the police had to close down the road.
Tonight, with the Kawhi Leonard-powered Raps leading the series three games to one and poised to win the pro basketball title, LeVert wants JPH to be a “family friendly” environment for fans of all ages, which means there’s a bar for adults, and an awareness that things shouldn’t get too rowdy for the kids. A major part of his game plan is that only 1,000 people will be allowed into JPH (there were more on Friday), although untold numbers will be able to watch from the surrounding streets.
“This is the most historic moment in Canadian basketball ever,” says LeVert, whose role in that history includes working on prep and clean-up at JPH—along with his Tidal League partners and crew—from 7am to 4am on game days. LeVert has watched enough basketball that he drops the cliche used by every basketball player who ever did an interview anywhere: “What makes all the work worth it is seeing the crowd and seeing the smiles on peoples’ faces. It’s the fans who make it so incredible."
In Toronto, Raptors fans were already lined up on Sunday to get into Jurassic Park for tonight’s game, which could see the 2017 and 2018 champion Golden State Warriors ejected from their presumptive throne. Monday afternoon, nobody was in line at Jurassic Park Halifax, but LeVert thinks people will show up before gates open at 9pm. He figures arriving by 8pm will be early enough to make it in, but as the Warriors are finding out, there are no sure things in sports.