World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) recently announced it would be moving WrestleMania 37 from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay. The “Super Bowl” of professional wrestling will now take place over two nights—it was originally scheduled for just one—on April 10-11, two weeks later than planned. WWE’s preference for having fans at its biggest show of the year was undeniably a factor in the decision to relocate the event (Florida is among the few states permitting fan attendance), but a source familiar with the decision-making process claimed the move wasn’t solely financially driven. “Selling out one-fourth of the stadium doesn’t necessarily mean it will be profitable considering the production quality of [a typical] WrestleMania [and the family-friendly ticket pricing the company strives to provide],” they said. Presumably, the company could have held the show at a larger venue (which could fit more socially distanced fans) or at the WWE performance center in Orlando (for significantly less money).
Our Take: To put the production costs for WrestleMania in perspective, according to our insider, WM31 (in 2015) had a budget $8 million higher than a typical a 3-hour RAW broadcast. If one assumes it costs in the $600,000 ballpark to put on an episode of RAW, it is reasonable to think WM37 could have a price tag that tops $9 million.
Los Angeles’ standing as a COVID-19 hotspot and the ban on fans at sporting events played within the state made WWE’s decision to move WM an easy one. Where to move it was a bit more complicated. Ultimately, the company settled on Tampa Bay in an effort to do right by their partners at Raymond James Stadium, which was supposed to host WrestleMania 36 last April before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of those plans.
But the venue also comes with a valuable fan safety roadmap. As hosts of Super Bowl 55 on Feb. 7, Tampa Bay’s stadium is planning to welcome 22,000 fans (including 7,500 vaccinated health workers for free) to the big game–a figure that aligns with the rumors suggesting WWE is hoping to have 25,000 fans at WM.
Wrestlenomics’ Brandon Thurston said that as of 2019, the average WM ticket price was about $268. (Note: that figure is dependent on seating configuration and demand.) So, if WWE only sells 30,000 tickets over two days (as the NFL is doing), the company would generate roughly $8 million in sales. Tack on $500,000 for merchandise sold at the venue (Thurston estimates $13 per capita), and WWE would be pushing break-even on a WM with 15,000 paid fans in attendance. Of course, at 25,000 paid fans they’re in the black.
Now that the Bucs home-schedule is over, Raymond James Stadium’s event calendar is pretty bare. There’s no logistical reason why WWE couldn’t have held WM37 on the weekend of March 28 as planned. The logic behind pushing the date back was to give Florida health officials two extra weeks to administer vaccines, which in theory would increase the number of people who might feel comfortable attending. It also could provide some warmer weather. Remember, WM takes place at night.
By making WM a two-night event, WWE will be able to sell twice as many tickets. But the decision to add a second night was less numbers-driven and more about circumstance. WWE really couldn’t put on a two-night event during the weekend of March 28. March 27 was originally slated to be the date of the Final Four (it’s now one of two Sweet 16 dates), and WWE doesn’t want to put up its PPV event against CBS’ free broadcast. But with the sports calendar opening up in mid-April (beyond regular season NBA/NHL games), the company saw an opportunity to monopolize two nights again. Last year’s two-night event was well-received.
Los Angeles won’t host WrestleMania this year. But the city will get its turn in 2023. WWE awarded WM38 and WM39 to AT&T Stadium (Dallas) and SoFi Stadium, respectively. From the SoFi Stadium POV, pushing the event back two years was a no-brainer. While no one can predict the future, the thought is that in two years they’ll be able to sell out the venue as opposed to hosting it with no fans this year. For Stan Kroenke, who privately financed the venue, that option had to make complete sense.