Wrestling to return to old Tampa armory — but just for one night

The old Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory, now the Bryan Glazer Family JCC, once regularly featured wrestling matches.
The old Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory, now the Bryan Glazer Family JCC, once regularly featured wrestling matches.
Published Aug. 28, 2017

TAMPA — For the first time in decades, wrestling will return to the old Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory with a reunion show scheduled for late September.

Now named the Bryan Glazer Family JCC, the armory regularly featured stars such as Dusty Rhodes and Jack Brisco. On Sept. 26, it will host a one-time only reunion night.

"It's a christening of this building that has been revived and renewed by the Jewish Community Center but once was the top wrestling venue in the South, back in its day," said Jody Simon, a retired wrestler and son of the famed heel Boris Malenko.

Simon, 61, said the building itself recalls Tampa's wrestling heyday.

"Every time you step into that place . . . it transports you. It takes you back to when you were a kid," he said.

The ring will go inside the center's ballroom, which has the capacity to seat about 900, said Heidi Shimberg, chief operating officer of programs and services for Tampa JCCs and Federation. Tickets will be sold on the JCC's web site with sales benefitting the center and a documentary on Tampa wrestling.

Shimberg, who said the center has worked with Simon for the past couple of years to recognize the building's connection to wrestling, thought the event was a natural next step.

"There's such incredible nostalgia with the West Tampa community and the broader Tampa community with wrestling in this building," she said.

Simon vividly remembers what it was like inside the armory.

"Back then it was just a big arena, and you had some dressing rooms upstairs, and it was hot and muggy and brutal," he said. "But it was a great place."

In keeping with tradition, the reunion show will take place on a Tuesday evening, the same day matches were held at the old armory.

"To run any other day of the week would be sacrilegious," Simon said.

Local wrestling icons Steve Keirn, Gerald Brisco and referee Stu Schwartz are expected to be on hand, he said. The card isn't finalized, but Simon said fans can see a mix of older legends and newer names wrestling.

He won't spend much time in the ring himself, he said.

"Only to say a few words and get back out as quickly as I can."