After a week of rumblings and rumors, the Toronto Rock are officially headed to Hamilton, Ontario—where the franchise played its very first season as the Ontario Raiders in 1998 before relocating to Toronto the following season.
The team announced it reached a five-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. FirstOntario, formerly Copps Coliseum, was the franchise’s first home during it’s one season as the Raiders and has a current capacity of 19,000. 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,” Dawick, who has owned the team since 2009, said. “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. With much of the team’s ticket-buying fan base spread across Ontario, the organization felt the move would allow them to appeal to the larger Ontario fanbase.
“Our fans come from all over the province with a very large amount of those fans residing outside of downtown Toronto,” Dawick explained. “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 Toronto 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,” Chief Venues and Operations Officer at MLSE Nick Eaves said. “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,” Dawick explained. “That being said, we have always represented the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area 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.”
“I have toured the FirstOntario Centre and can honestly say I’m so excited to have a true home,” Rogers said. “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.
What are your thoughts on the Toronto Rock’s move to Hamilton? Let us know in the comments or on social media.