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The Sportatorium, site of TV’s wrestling from Tampa, will be leased for business

A Miami developer aims to preserve the old building’s history while leasing it out for business.
Wrestler Eddie Graham ran Championship Wrestling From Florida at the old Sportatorium, 106 N Albany Ave. The building has now been sold.
Wrestler Eddie Graham ran Championship Wrestling From Florida at the old Sportatorium, 106 N Albany Ave. The building has now been sold. [ Courtesy of Nicole Alonso ]
Published Jan. 29, 2020
Updated Jan. 29, 2020

TAMPA ― The old, two-story building at 106 N. Albany Ave. doesn’t look special — tan and stucco, just like all the buildings around it.

But the site just north of Kennedy Boulevard brings back memories for those who grew up watching Championship Wrestling from Florida.

Every week for some 30 years, the 4,000-square-foot building known then as the Sportatorium was the scene of professional wrestling matches broadcast statewide.

In a circus-like atmosphere, Gordon Solie called play-by-play and interviewed famed grapplers such as Dusty Rhodes and Boris Malenko.

It has remained vacant for the last four years or so. But it looks like that’s about to change.

The building was purchased last week by a Miami-based development group that plans to renovate and lease for commercial purposes to a tenant or tenants.

“I am so happy that it will continue to exist and not be demolished,” said Nicole Gossett Alonso, whose father and grandfather — the Eddie and Mike Gossett — ran Championship Wrestling from Florida under the wrestler names Eddie and Mike Graham.

“That place still means so much to so many. It’s amazing.”

My Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service reports the sold for $615,000.

The Sportatorium in Tampa, longtime home to Championship Wrestling From Florida, was auctioned in 2016 and now sits vacant.
The Sportatorium in Tampa, longtime home to Championship Wrestling From Florida, was auctioned in 2016 and now sits vacant. [ Times (2016) ]

Buyer Nicholas Nakos of Phalanx Property Investment said he hopes to preserve what remains from its wrestling days. Four metal beams marking the corners of the wrestling ring still jut from the floor to the ceiling. Turnbuckles and ropes were attached to the beams to hold up an elevated wrestling mat.

There are “no plans to remove them,” Nakos said, but he would “definitely consider contributing them to a museum” if his plans change.

The sale comes as Tampa prepares to host WWE’s WrestleMania in April. It’s the largest wrestling show of the year.

Related: Before WWE and WrestleMania, 11 who were instrumental in shaping Florida’s wrestling history

Championship Wrestling from Florida was incorporated around 1950. It was an era before promoters such as WWE were watched around the world.

Instead, each state or region of the country had its own.

A sampling of the stars who performed regularly in Tampa include Buddy Colt, Wahoo McDaniel, Hiro Matsuda, Dory and Terry Funk, Jack and Gerald Brisco, and Brian Blair.

Live events were held Tuesday nights at the Fort Homer W. Hesterly armory, now the Bryan Glazer Family JCC. Television shows were taped the next day at the Sportatorium and broadcast on Saturdays.

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Championship Wrestling from Florida folded in 1987 and the Gossett family sold the Sportatorium a few years later. It was most recently used to manufacture women’s clothing and then sold in an auction in 2016.

Still, Gossett said, fans tell her they drive by the building when they’re in the neighborhood, sometimes getting out to touch the exterior walls.

“It’s hard to explain what an impact the wrestling had on people," she said. “It really is amazing and special.”