The Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) have reached a 5- year agreement, with a team option for a multi-year extension, with Spectra managed Core Entertainment to relocate the team’s home games to Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre beginning with the 2021-22 season.
Toronto Rock Owner, President and GM Jamie Dawick made the announcement today at a press conference at FirstOntario Centre along with Rock captain Challen Rogers.
“There are a lot of reasons with a lot of layers to this decision, but when all things were considered, we feel this is best for the future of the Toronto Rock and we’re very excited to work with FirstOntario Centre,” said Dawick who has owned the team since 2009. “There is a strong business case behind the relocation to Hamilton, including a significant reduction in game operations costs as well as the opportunities that exist to better connect with our fan base and most importantly grow that fan base and increase revenues.”
While previously playing at one of the busiest arenas in North America, the Rock were a secondary tenant in the building and faced increasing operations costs while, and rightfully so, being fourth in line for home game dates.
Dawick noted that the Rock will have a much better selection of home game dates at FirstOntario Centre and the vast majority of home games in 2021-22 will be played on Saturday nights. It’s a big advantage for the Rock, with so much of the team’s ticket-buying fan base spread across Ontario.
“Our fans come from all over the province with a very large amount of those fans residing outside of downtown Toronto,” explained Dawick. “We’re very conscious of our fans from east of Toronto and outside of the city. Having access to Saturday night home games gives us the opportunity to become more accessible to even more people. Fans will be able to travel in and out of Hamilton with ease and enjoy the city both before and after the game. We will be able to provide a more affordable full game day experience and engage the community and local businesses at a new level.”
Dawick also thanked Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) for being a great partner throughout his ownership of the team.
“I’ve owned this team for 11 seasons and everything I do on a daily basis represents a commitment to winning, first and foremost, and running the Toronto Rock as the premier franchise in the league,” said Dawick. “I want to sincerely thank MLSE for playing a pivotal role in the Rock’s successful 20-year run at Scotiabank Arena and the two seasons before that at the Gardens, they’ve always been good to us.”
Four of the Rock’s six NLL championships were won while the team played out of Scotiabank Arena, with the 2005 and 2011 titles being won on the turf at 40 Bay Street.
“The Rock have been an important part of the Toronto sports fabric for the past 22 years and they will always hold a special place in the history of this venue,” said Nick Eaves, Chief Venues and Operations Officer at MLSE. “The team has always been a tremendous partner of MLSE’s and we wish them every success in this new chapter in the franchise’s history. As an organization, the Rock, and their fans, can know that we will always support them in any way we can moving forward.”
The team name will not change with the relocation of the team’s home games to Hamilton. Dawick states there was consideration put into changing the name, but in the end this team and this franchise is the Toronto Rock.
“We absolutely considered it,” explained Dawick. “That being said, we have always represented the GTHA and nothing’s changed in that regard, just the location of our home games. We’re the same team, the same franchise, playing our games in a different building and community. We are playing in Hamilton because it’s where we want to be for the long-term.”
The relocation of Rock home games has also been met with excitement from the league level.
“The Rock continue to consistently serve up the best lacrosse in the world and the fans throughout Ontario will now have them as a primary tenant at the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton,” said NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz. “The organization and the fan base can now have the best of all that the great City of Hamilton provides while maintaining the standard of excellence all of Ontario has come to know both on the field from the Rock and in the community.”
The Rock have been welcomed with open arms by City of Hamilton staff who have rolled out the red carpet and assisted the organization with forming strategic partnerships from the very beginning of the relocation process.
“We are very excited to welcome six time National Lacrosse League Champions, the Rock, to Hamilton,” said Fred Eisenberger, Mayor of the City of Hamilton. “Lacrosse is a great sport with great fans and I am certain they will receive a very big, very loud Hamilton welcome. We look forward to enjoying the energy, togetherness and opportunity to reconnect our close-knit community as The Rock prepares to kick off their 2021-22 season.”
The new home of Rock City will allow fans the opportunity to enjoy an enhanced game experience that will only increase in quality and value in the coming seasons with FirstOntario Centre playing a key role in Hamilton’s downtown revitalization project.
“Spectra is thrilled that the Rock have chosen Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre as their new home. The announcement of another professional team making their home in Hamilton, is an exciting moment for sports fans across South Western Ontario,“ said Andrew Nash, General Manager of the Spectra managed FirstOntario Centre. “Coming off this difficult time in the sports and entertainment industry makes us even more anxious to see FirstOntario Centre filled with Rock fans this upcoming season.”
Today the team has also announced the introduction of the Rock City Builders Club which locks in season membership pricing and the best ticket value for three years. All members of the Rock City Builders Club receive all the benefits of a regular annual season membership, along with increased benefits highlighted by the inclusion of an exclusive Rock City Builders Club jersey for each and every seat purchased. Existing season members will have the first right of refusal to renew their season membership and approve their FirstOntario Centre seat location until June 15. New season members can join the priority waiting list and reserve their membership with a $100 deposit per seat and guarantee a ticket to every 2021-22 Rock home game at FirstOntario Centre.
The Rock will be capping the number of season memberships available at just 5,000 to accommodate the possibility of socially distanced seating being in effect in December. Should there be no limitations, the number of season memberships will be raised at the appropriate time. In short, secure your season membership if you want to lock in your opportunity to watch the Rock live at FirstOntario Centre in 2021-22.
“I have toured the FirstOntario Centre and can honestly say I’m so excited to have a true home,” said Rogers, the youngest captain in Rock history. “This city was built on hard work, perseverance and a never-say-die attitude. My teammates and I are looking forward to competing in front of such passionate fans. I think our team is something the City of Hamilton can really get behind and help push us towards our ultimate goal of winning a championship.”
The Rock will continue to run the team’s business operations at Canada’s premier lacrosse-first facility, the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre (TRAC) in Oakville, ON. The TRAC also serves as the team’s practice and training facility.
In the coming months, the Rock will be announcing local partnerships, community engagement initiatives and more. Please follow the Rock on social media for the latest news.