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For Tampa, ‘time has come’ to host WWE’s WrestleMania

The de facto Super Bowl of sports entertainment will be held at Raymond James Stadium in April 2020.
Hulk Hogan takes the stage during the announcement that Wrestle Mania 36 will be held in Tampa in 2020, on March 7, 2019 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Tampa Bay Sports Commission pursued the opportunity to host Wrestle Mania for 10 years. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Mar. 7
Updated Mar. 8

TAMPA ― Thirteen months before the sports entertainment phenomenon known as WrestleMania descends on Tampa for the first time, its parent company offered a glimpse of the glitzy, audacious, sleekly-packaged spectacle headed this way.

Yep, even the news conference Thursday formally announcing WrestleMania 36 ― to be held April 5, 2020 at Raymond James Stadium ― was over the top.

Or in this case, the top rope.

RELATED: With WrestleMania 36, Tampa lands a WWE whopper

“It’s amazing to me that we have not been here (yet),” said Stephanie McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment chief brand officer and periodic performer. “Which only means we’ve got to blow WrestleMania out of the water and make Tampa Bay the best one yet.”

McMahon, daughter of WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, was among 10 speakers ― ranging from personalities to politicians ― to speak at the news conference inside a Raymond James second-floor club area.

Her husband Paul Levesque, much better known as multiple-time WWE champ Triple H, also spoke. So too did three-time WWE World Heavyweight champ (and leukemia survivor) Roman Reigns, as well as Charlotte Flair, who competes for the Raw women’s championship at the upcoming WrestleMania 35 at MetLife Stadium.

Each walked to the podium with entrance music, as various WWE images were splashed on a large screen behind them. Some of the community officials, who toiled roughly 10 years to bring a WrestleMania to the area, were presented gaudy replicas of WWE championship belts.

“Of course, Vince is over the top,” said bay area resident and WWE icon Hulk Hogan, the day’s first speaker.

RELATED: WrestleMania is coming to Tampa. What other big events have we hosted?

“From the pyro to the visuals to the sound to everything, it’s just pretty amazing.”

With Super Bowl LV headed to Raymond James on Feb. 7, 2021, Tampa will become only the fourth city to host a WrestleMania and Super Bowl within the same year, sharing the distinction with Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area.

All of Thursday’s speakers promised a weeklong extravaganza (including a series of ancillary events) possessing a global appeal rivaling any other major event (Republican National Convention, Super Bowl, College Football Playoff national title game) hosted by the city.

Rob Higgins, who spearheaded the WrestleMania quest as Tampa Bay Sports Commission executive director, reiterated the attraction could generate between 40-50,000 hotel-visitor room nights for the area.

In the spirit of pro-wrestling panache, Higgins presented the area’s written bid for WrestleMania to the WWE by placing it inside a custom-designed turnbuckle with the words, “Our Time” etched on it.

“To be honest, our time has come,” Higgins said. “And together we’re gonna create a WrestleMania experience like nobody’s ever seen.”

RELATED: Takeaways from the Tampa WrestleMania 36 announcement

That experience will feature the culmination of soap opera-type story lines, developed by outrageous wrestling personalities in or outside the ring over several months, or even a year. The senses of those attending in person will be exposed to fireworks, pageantry, blaring music.

“You imagine this sea of people, but what you don’t necessarily get at a sporting event or at a concert is the storytelling," McMahon said.

"We have all of these tremendous stories that have been building for an entire year, topped off with incredible scenery and set design, pyrotechnics displays, musical performances.

“It truly is this incredible live-event spectacular bringing together the best elements of any show, whether that is world-class athleticism or it is this true story that everyone’s engrossed in and involved in.”

Preceding the WrestleMania itself will be a sequence of ancillary events, ranging from the fan-interactive to the formal.

Some are likely to give a nod to Tampa’s rich wrestling heritage that included Championship Wrestling from Florida, a wildly popular territorial promotion featuring a taped weekly TV show and weekly wrestling cards at the old Fort Homer Hesterly Armory.

“Generations of fans grew up watching wrestling at the Armory. It’s who we are,” outgoing Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn said.

“This is part of a Tampa tradition that has come home in a way bigger than we ever imagined.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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