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WrestleMania may be $170 million boost to local economy

Study suggests WrestleMania may be $170 million boost to Central Florida next spring.

For Orlando professional wrestling fans, WrestleMania’s arrival in April will mean six days of events, action and fun.

For Central Florida, though, it will mean a financial windfall.

The WWE’s signature annual event generated $170.4 million in economic impact from visitors to the Dallas area last April, according to figures released today by the mayors of Dallas and Arlington, Texas.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said he was pleased with the numbers from Dallas and what they might mean for WrestleMania 33, scheduled for April 2 at Camping World Stadium.

“We knew we could expect in excess of $100 million in impact,” Dyer said. “This [announcement] certainly supports that and more. When you add the exposure the event receives around the country and around the world, it’s pretty incredible.”

WrestleMania drew an announced 74,635 fans to Camping World Stadium in 2008, and a WWE-commissioned study showed it added $50 million to the local economy. Events that week included Sunday’s centerpiece show, a Hall of Fame ceremony, a small fan convention at Universal Orlando and a TV taping of “Monday Night Raw.”

In the years since then, the scope of the undertaking has grown from three days to five by adding more events such as a show from NXT, WWE’s Orlando-based developmental brand; a much larger fan convention; and other community events.

One reason WWE is confident that Orlando could eclipse Dallas’ numbers is the addition of a sixth day of activity — a TV taping of “SmackDown Live” at Amway Center, a first for WrestleMania week.

“WrestleMania week continues to grow incrementally every year,” said John Saboor, WWE’s executive vice president for special events. “The addition of ‘SmackDown Live’ on Tuesday at Amway Center, we believe, will cause even more of our fans to extend their stay in Orlando, creating layers of benefits for WWE and for Central Florida.”

The $170 million reflects the money spent only by visitors — not locals who attended the event. The Enigma Research Corporation study showed that 72 percent of the fans who attended WrestleMania in Dallas came from outside the greater Dallas/Arlington region, a percentage Saboor said is comparable with previous years. Visitors stayed an average of 3.9 nights, spent $25 million on accommodations and $8.4 million at local restaurants in Dallas, according to the study.

“WrestleMania goes so far beyond a local event,” Dyer said. “It’s like a Super Bowl, with people from around the country and around the world coming to be part of the experience.”

When the WWE’s biggest spectacle last visited Orlando in 2008, the company had just graduated from basketball arenas and into football stadiums every year for WrestleMania Sunday. Saboor said Orlando helped the company realize the demand was there for more and larger events.

“We made the move because fans demonstrated they would come in larger numbers to consume as much as WWE was willing to offer,” Saboor said. “It became obvious and conspicuous that this was a rite of passage for fans. Orlando gave enormous rise to underscoring the fact that our fans wanted to consume more and more often.”

As a result, at least 29 WWE-sponsored events are scheduled that week, from school appearances to meet-and-greets with fans. The push for WrestleMania begins this week, with a Thursday-night party at Seneff Arts Plaza outside the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center to celebrate the first sale of WrestleMania tickets.

WWE now sees Orlando as a second home. The promotion’s training facility, the WWE Performance Center, is in east Orlando, and the NXT brand promotes shows at Full Sail University and throughout Central Florida. Dyer said those connections helped Central Florida land WrestleMania in 2017 and hopefully in the years to come.

“We’d like to get in a rotation, maybe get WrestleMania every four or five years,” Dyer said.

WrestleMania in 2008 was one of the first major sporting events in Orlando after the tourist-tax deal that raised money to improve the city’s arts and sports venues. With Camping World Stadium’s $207 million renovation now complete, Dyer sees WrestleMania as a crucial step in continuing the city’s growth as a sports hub, along with the NFL Pro Bowl, the ACC football Championship Game and other events.

“I think it’s a validator of what we said in 2007 when we first passed the bill to improve venues,” Dyer said. “We’re bringing events to Orlando we wouldn’t have been able to bring with the stadium the way it was.”

jreddick@orlandosentinel.com

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