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Arts / Culture

WrestleMania Coming To Tampa In 2020

Whether it’s known by the traditional name of “professional wrestling” or the modern label of “sports entertainment,” there’s no denying that the biggest event in that business is WrestleMania.

Next year, World Wrestling Entertainment is bringing the spectacle – and the thousands of fans that come from all over the world for it – to Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium for the first time.

At an announcement at the Stadium Thursday, superstars who call the area home, like Hulk Hogan and Roman Reigns, shared the stage with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan. 

Hogan spoke about the emotional thrill of bringing the event where he had some of his greatest career moments to his hometown; Hagan focused more on the the economic impact.

"Between 40,000 and 50,000 visitor room nights will come as a result of that, of course there'll be considerable consumer spending from folks staying here,” said the commissioner. “It's not just one day or one game or one event; it's a week-long of events."

That includes not just the main show on Sunday, April 5, 2020, but live broadcasts of WWE’s “SmackDown” on Fox TV the Friday before, “Raw” on the USA Network the Monday after and other programs on the WWE’s own streaming network throughout the week.

And not all of those visitors will be staying in Tampa.

"We'll see people staying in Pinellas County, in Pasco County, in Manatee County, so it's also great for our neighbors,” said Santiago Corrada, President and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay.

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Credit Mark Schreiner / WUSF Public Media
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WUSF Public Media
Tampa Bay Sports Commission Executive Director Rob Higgins, left, poses with WWE superstar and local resident Titus O'Neil.

Wrestler and Tampa resident Titus O'Neil said the WWE will also be active outside the ring, with him and his colleagues making dozens of appearances in the community during the week.

"We'll partner with various organizations to make them a part of not only the WrestleMania experience, but also leave this city better than when we came here," he said.

After the announcement, O’Neil and other wrestlers spoke at an anti-bullying event at the nearby Garcia Salesian Boys and Girls Club.

Buckhorn puts bringing the WWE to Tampa alongside other tourist-centric events the city has hosted like four NFL Super Bowls (a fifth one comes to town in Feb. 2021), the 2012 Republican National Convention, the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2017 and the Bollywood International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards in 2014.

“Once again, for those people around the world who may not know where Tampa is, they will be able to turn on that TV, see WrestleMania, see these amazing WWE superstars and say, ‘What a cool city this is, what an amazing place.’ That’s what this does for us,” said Buckhorn.

He also joined Hogan and WWE wrestler-turned-Executive Vice President Paul “Triple H” Levesque in talking about Tampa’s lengthy history of professional wrestling.

“You think about the stories of parents and grandparents who used to go to the (Ft. Homer Hesterly) Armory in that unair-conditioned building, it was part of Tampa’s DNA,” said Buckhorn. “Generations of Tampanians grew up watching wrestling at the Armory. It is who we are; it is part of what makes this amazing paella that we call home something special.”

Buckhorn, who ends his two terms as mayor in two months, later posted a Tweet, posing with a title belt WWE officials gave him.

For Tampa Bay Sports Commission Executive Director Rob Higgins, the announcement is the culmination of a decade-long courtship of the WWE.

“This is literally the largest event that we’ve been going after for quite some time that we’ve never hosted, so to have our first WrestleMania and then our fifth Super Bowl all coming within one year is truly incredible, it’s historic,” said Higgins.

"We look at it from an economic impact standpoint, a social impact standpoint and then in terms of the marketing exposure our community will receive,” he added. “WrestleMania checks those boxes in a very high, high level."

WrestleMania 36 takes place April 5, 2020 at Raymond James Stadium. An on-sale date for tickets is expected soon.