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No WrestleMania For Tampa: WWE Moves Event To Closed Orlando Set

WrestleMania 36 will not be held in Tampa after all.

World Wrestling Entertainment issued a statement  on Twitter Monday saying it will move the April 5 extravaganza out of Raymond James Stadium to its training facility in Orlando.

https://t.co/DLbgSVYWZM— WWE (@WWE) March 16, 2020

“In coordination with local partners and government officials, WrestleMania and all related events in Tampa Bay will not take place,” the statement read.

As it has done with two of its recent televised programs – SmackDown last Friday and Raw on Monday – WWE will hold WrestleMania in its empty Performance Center in Orlando.

The statement said only essential personnel will be allowed on the closed set. The show will air, as scheduled, on pay-per-view and the WWE Network.

Rob Higgins, Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, released his own statement on Twitter shortly after the announcement was made.

“Our community has waited 36 years to host WrestleMania and while we are saddened that this unforeseen situation has led us to today’s announcement, this is totally the right call for the safety and security of everyone involved,” the statement read. “A huge thank you to all of our local leaders and our friends at the WWE, as we collectively worked through the unprecedented fluidity of the last few weeks. The Team Tampa Bay-WWE partnership has never been stronger.’

During Monday night's episode of Raw on the USA Network, the WWE aired a series of live matches and interviews from the empty Performance Center, along with matches from previous pay-per-view events.

The move from Tampa wasn't acknowledged until almost two hours into the three hour program.

Events in the days surrounding the main show – live broadcasts of SmackDown, NXT, Raw and the Hall of Fame ceremony, all scheduled to take place at Amalie Arena, along with WWE Axxess at the Tampa Convention Center – were also canceled in Tampa.

There's no word yet on which of them will take place in Orlando.

The decision followed days of uncertainty. While most other major sporting events and leagues shut down last week, the WWE maintained the show would go on.

On Thursday, the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, and the NCAA all announced postponements or cancellations that affected games locally and nationally. 

On the same day, the WWE held a press conference saying it was preparing a contingency plan, but remained committed to holding the event at Raymond James Stadium.

The same day, Hillsborough County leaders discussed WrestleMania at an emergency meeting, but held off on making a decision for another week.

"In an event like WrestleMania, you're not just going to have people traveling from the United States, you're going to have people travelling internationally and why would we subject our community to the unknown?" Sheriff Chad Chronister said.

While officials expected between 65,000 and 75,000 people from around the world would attend WrestleMania, thousands more were expected to come to the area for the dozens of non-WWE pro wrestling shows scheduled to take place.

“It's almost like become a Woodstock-type, yearly event for pro wrestling fans, because…there are wrestling companies from all over the world that are coming to Tampa to run shows,” Wrestling Observer newsletter editor Dave Meltzer told Florida Matters earlier this month.

“WrestleMania is obviously the biggest on Sunday but…there's New Japan Pro Wrestling going to be running, Impact Wrestling, and the Ring of Honor show is in town,” he added.

“The other thing is, is with the international shows, what's really cool is it's almost like you bring a culture to the United States…kind of like getting a chance to watch a Japanese event in your own hometown.”

Venues like the Italian Club and Cuban Club in Ybor City were scheduled to host events, many of which have already been cancelled.

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Carl Lisciandrello is digital news editor of WUSF Public Media.
Carl Lisciandrello
Carl Lisciandrello is digital news editor of WUSF Public Media.
Mark Schreiner has been the producer and reporter for "University Beat" on WUSF 89.7 FM since 2001 and on WUSF TV from 2007-2017.