WrestleMania is coming to Tampa.
An official announcement named Raymond James Stadium as the site of WrestleMania 36. WWE superstars are slated to descend upon Tampa in April 2020.
The event has come to Florida three times before (twice in Orlando, once in Miami). But this will be the first time WrestleMania is hosted here.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has been the destination for a number of other notable events. While some of the biggest have been sports related, we’ve hosted entertainment and political spectacles as well.
Here are some of the events that brought the most attention and people to Tampa Bay.
Four Super Bowls (and a fifth on the way)
Super Bowl XVIII, Tampa’s first, was held at Tampa Stadium in 1984. The Los Angeles Raiders beat the Washington Redskins 38 - 9.
The halftime show, a nod to Florida, was a strange Disney-does-Hollywood-themed affair. Goofy danced around in a white tuxedo while elephants stomped around the field. Minnie was also carried in on a throne and wore a fruit basket hat.
Super Bowl XXV in 1991 is remembered for Whitney Houston’s iconic National Anthem performance. The proceeds from her recording of the song were donated to soldiers in the Persian Gulf War. The theme of patriotism continued during the halftime show, when a montage of soldiers and a pre-recorded message of support from George H. W. Bush played before New Kids on the Block burst into song. Roughly 2,000 children participated in the performance. The show was again Disney-themed, and beloved characters like Minnie joined in. Entertainment aside, the New York Giants defeated the Buffalo Bills 20-19.
Super Bowl XXXV took place at Raymond James Stadium in 2001. The Ravens defeated the Giants 34–7. Aerosmith performed, joined by Britney Spears, NSYNC, Mary J. Blige and Nelly. The annual Gasparilla celebration was moved to one week before the Super Bowl that year. Gasparilla brought in 750,000 attendees, shattering the previous record.
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In 2009, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Cardinals 27–23. Super Bowl XLIII’s halftime performance came from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Yes, this is the performance that featured Bruce’s infamous crotch thrust.
Raymond James Stadium is slated to host Super Bowl LV in 2021.
Two NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament Frozen Fours
The NCAA Men’s hockey tournament came to Tampa twice. The first time the Frozen Four happened here was in 2012. It was hosted by the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the Tampa Bay Sports Commission at the then-Tampa Bay Times Forum. The four teams were the Boston College Eagles, the Minnesota–Duluth Bulldogs, the Union Dutchmen and the Ferris State Bulldogs. Boston College defeated Ferris State to win. The entire tournament generated over $10 million in direct visitor spending, according to Times archives.
The Amalie Arena hosted the Frozen Four in 2016, attracting 19,538 attendees. The North Dakota Fighting Hawks defeated the runner-up, the Quinnipiac Bobcats. The semifinalists were the Boston College Eagles and the Denver Pioneers.
The 2012 Republican National Convention
Republican delegates flocked to Tampa to nominate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan for president and vice president.
The RNC brought over $214 million to the Tampa Bay area, according to a business impact study. Despite the threat of Tropical Storm Isaac, the event also brought more than 50,000 visitors to town. There were some protests, but an undercover police operation kept them from getting too out of hand.
The RNC also drove traffic to Tampa’s many strip clubs. Dancers flew into the city just for the convention, and clubs upgraded their lighting and private rooms ahead of the event.
NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four
The NCAA Men’s basketball Final Four was held in 1999 at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field. It was the only time the tournament was held in an arena designed for baseball.
The Connecticut Huskies took the title, with the Duke Blue Devils coming in as the runner up. The other semifinalists were the Michigan State Spartans and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The tournament is coming back to Tampa in 2020. This time, it’ll be held at Amalie Arena.
NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four
In 2008, Tennessee defeated Stanford 64-48 at the St. Pete Times forum in Tampa. The other semifinalists were LSU & Connecticut.
The tournament returned to Tampa in 2015. Connecticut defeated Notre Dame for the second year in a row, scoring 63-53. South Carolina and Maryland also competed.
Tampa will be hosting its third NCAA Women’s Final Four this April.
Presidential and vice presidential debates
In 1996, the University of South Florida hosted the vice presidential debate between Vice President Al Gore and Republican vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp. Jim Lehrer moderated. According to C-SPAN, the debate was “notable for its civility.”
Two Republican candidate debates also took place in Tampa. In September 2011, Wolf Blitzer moderated a debate between U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Governor Jon Huntsman, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, Governor Rick Perry, former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum.
In January 2012, Brian Williams moderated another debate between Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
2017 College Football Playoff National Championship
The college football national title game was played at Raymond James Stadium in 2017. The Clemson Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 35 - 31.
International Indian Film Academy Awards
In 2014, actors, visitors and journalists flocked to Tampa from all around the world to celebrate the “Bollywood Oscars.” About 24,000 people came to the four-day event at Raymond James Stadium.
The 15th annual International Indian Film Academy Awards drew Indian performers including movie star Deepika Padukone, singer Ankit Tiwari and Slumdog Millionaire’s Anil Kapoor. Also, Priyanka Chopra danced with John Travolta.
The event kicked off in true Tampa style, according to the Times archives:
"A history lesson in Gasparilla tradition was shown on the stadium’s giant video screen, from Jose’s plunder to Bayshore Boulevard’s thunder. Then came the evening’s first memorable visual effect. With booming cannons and a Bollywood beat, a pirate ship rolled out, carrying co-hosts Shahid Kapoor and Farhan Akhtar in swashbuckler garb.
They proceeded to stroll through the crowd, stopping to josh Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who at first, as usual, refused to turn over the city.
Then, in a historic change of course, Buckhorn relented on one condition: ‘Only if you entertain us.’"
This report was compiled using Times archives.