TORONTO — Season tickets for the Toronto Wolfpack's second season go on sale Monday and while the price appears reasonable, there is some uncertainty about the home schedule at this stage.
That's because Lamport Stadium is undergoing renovations that may not be complete for the rugby league club's first stretch of home games.
The Wolfpack's hope is to negotiate with the city for an earlier conclusion to the planned artificial turf replacement so that Lamport can host all 11 home games and the three to four playoffs matches that may follow.
In a worst-case scenario, the team will look to play any early home games affected somewhere else in the Toronto area.
Toronto is slated to open the 2018 season Feb. 4 with its first 11 games on the other side of the Atlantic. Eleven of the 12 remaining regular-season games are at home, starting with the visit of Halifax RLFC on April 28.
The City of Toronto, which owns Lamport, says replacing the turf will start in April and is slated for completion by the end of June. That covers the first seven home games.
The job could be done sooner with a city spokeswoman saying the timeline allows for flexibility in case of inclement weather. A turf industry veteran says the job could be done in five to six weeks excluding complications — or sooner if more personnel were used.
The city says the contract for the turf replacement — which will meet World Rugby's performance standard — should be finalized in December.
The budget for the turf replacement, part of a city-wide sports field maintenance program, is $810,000 and will come out of the 2017 city capital budget, according to the city spokeswoman.
The City, which has a three-year stadium deal with the Wolfpack, collected $28,252.51 in permit revenues for the Wolfpack home games last season.
The last 2018 regular-season game is July 28 against visiting Featherstone Rovers. The playoffs could add another seven playoff matches with either three or four at home depending on where the Wolfpack finish in the standings.
At present the club is promising at least 10 home matches for the adult season-ticket price of $249.99 (before taxes and processing fee). That price — complete with a club toque in the current "Holiday Season" promotion — could actually cover some 14 or 15 games, including the playoffs.
That's up from last year's $199, which covered 12 home games.
The 2018 season-ticket price is $124.99 for those under 16 and $187.50 for those aged 16 to 21.
Adult single-game tickets will be priced at $25 and $30 this year, up from around $21 last season. That's a little more than the price of large glass of wine at a Leafs or Raptors game.
The Wolfpack, rugby's first transatlantic club, went 20-1-1 last season to win England's Kingstone Press League 1 and earn promotion to the second-tier Championship.
Toronto has already signed seven new players in preparation for next year: Australians Dave Taylor and Josh McCrone, Albanian-born Olsi Krasniqi, Fiji international Ashton Sims and England's Joe Westerman, Tom Armstrong and Andy Ackers.
The Wolfpack went unbeaten at Lamport last season, drawing crowds in excess of 6,000 and topping out at 8,546 for their home finale against Doncaster.
While a rudimentary venue, the 42-year-old venue is located close to the bars and restaurants of Liberty Village. And the Wolfpack created a fan-friendly atmosphere with a north end filled with beer stands and their tradition of having players work their way around the field after games to mingle with supporters.
"Lamport Stadium became a fortress for us in 2017," Brian Noble, Toronto's director of rugby, said in a statement. "We are incredibly fortunate to have a passionate supporter base who got behind the team as soon as we arrived in Toronto. The crowd was incredible to play in front of and we look forward to a great atmosphere in Toronto again in 2018."
The Wolfpack have opened training camp in their new English training base, which used to be home to the Manchester City soccer team.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
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