TAMPA — WrestleMania’s Florida comeback is less than six months away and the Tampa Bay tourism industry is already anticipating a city takeover with more than $100 million in visitor spending.
WWE on Monday released the results of an economic impact report that shows visitor spending in the New York and New Jersey region during 2019′s WrestleMania hit $165.4 million in April. But when the super bowl of wrestling comes for a week-long celebration in Tampa for the first time next April, that number could be even higher.
“We consider the tri-state area and northeast our front yard," said John Saboor, WWE executive vice president of special events. “We have fans embedded in that region … so there was a lower number of out-of-towners than we would likely see within a strong destination like Tampa.”
WWE commissioned an economic impact study by Enigma Research Corporation to examine the number of visitors and money spent during New Jersey/New York-based WrestleMania 35. It found that 52 percent of attendees came from out of town.
But when WrestleMania was in Orlando in 2017, an economic study found 79 percent of fans traveled for the week of events and title competition. Enigma also calculated that Orlando visitors spent $181.5 million.
“I think that is more comparable to what we might expect,” said Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. “I think Tampa is going to be a magnet to wrestling fans since we have such a rich history of wrestling coming out of Tampa.”
Hulk Hogan graduated from Robinson High School in South Tampa and got his start in Tampa when the area was a championship wrestling hot spot. Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson’s father, Rocky Johnson, was the state’s first African-American pro-wrestling heavyweight champion. (And just moved back to the area.) Tampa’s Brian Blair competed in WrestleMania III. That’s not even mentioning several WWE stars who have made Tampa Bay their home, including Dave Bautista.
This will be WrestleMania’s fourth time in Florida, having been in Orlando twice and Miami once.
“We couldn’t be more excited to finally get a chance to roll out the red carpet and welcome the WWE Universe to our hometown,” said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.
Higgins said he anticipates WrestleMania will generate about 50,000 hotel visitor room nights by attendees from every state and more than 60 countries.
The impact report showed the average length of hotel stays during the 2019 WrestleMania was 4.6 days. WrestleMania already has events, matches and autograph signings planned at Amalie Arena and the convention center leading up to the premier event at Raymond James Stadium.
“WrestleMania week is a family experience,” Saboor said. “Generations of fans will converge in Tampa Bay for what is our largest rite of passage.”
Corrada, Visit Tampa Bay and other city leaders have been focusing on sports tourism to grow Hillsborough County’s number of visitors.
In February 2021, the Super Bowl will be back in Tampa. The city has hosted many Final Four games in both college basketball and hockey. At the same time, several new hotels have gone up — such as the Current on Rocky Point and the Home2 Suites by Hilton downtown — while others like the Water Street Marriott are undergoing renovations.
“The destination is red hot right now,” Corrada said. “We’re on everyone’s top 10 list for something.”
WrestleMania tickets go on sale Friday for the April 5 show. Area residents can buy their tickets early starting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday during a free WrestleMania party at Thunder Alley outside of Amalie Arena.