David Hunt for jacksonville.com wrote a very interesting article about the impact WrestleMania can have on a local economy.
Hosting pro wrestling’s signature event could bring more than $30 million to local economy.
From the frenzy that is the unmistakable onslaught of folding chairs and body slams, Jacksonville’s economy could get the chance to gain tens of millions of dollars.
The city has put in a request to host WrestleMania, pro wrestling’s long-standing signature event, often compared to the Super Bowl for its ability to draw crowds and flip downtowns into block parties.
If the city is successful — and thus far, it’s just a request — that hoopla could be coming to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium sometime in 2012-14.
Mike Bouda, Jacksonville Economic Commission’s sports director, is awaiting word back from World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. And although he expects competition for the bid to be intense, he said the city’s experience hosting Florida-Georgia football games as well as the recent Monster Jam truck rally, which drew more than 70,000 fans, should help.
And, of course, the Super Bowl in 2005.
“We know how to do these things,” he said. “Big crowds don’t scare us.”
Bouda said the economic impact of hosting WrestleMania could be more than $30 million. Last year’s, at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, pumped an estimated $51.5 million into Central Florida’s economy, according to World Wrestling Entertainment.
Dan King, general manager for the Hyatt Regency Riverfront hotel downtown, can attest to the swarming crowds.
He came to Jacksonville several years ago after running a Hyatt in Dearborn, Mich., where he hosted NFL football players before Super Bowl XL and pro wrestlers before Wrestlemania 23.
“It wasn’t quite as big as the Super Bowl,” he said, “but it was a huge event.”
For the most part, his job was the same in terms of providing hospitality and security. Although there was one noticeable difference in the groups’ stays: The wrestlers commandeered one of his conference centers to set up a practice ring.
“These guys take their sport extremely seriously,” he said.
The first Wrestlemania, in 1985, had a live audience just shy of 20,000. This year’s event, held last month at Reliant Stadium in Houston, drew more than 72,000.
With the proper adjustments, Bouda said it would be possible to seat 90,000 in Jacksonville, counting field space.
It’s early in the bid process, so no prices have been negotiated for stadium rental nor have any particulars been set down for typical side events like a fan festival or golf tournament, Bouda said.
WrestleMania typically takes place in March or April, meaning the setup and tear-down of the ring area at the stadium wouldn’t conflict with Jaguars football.
It would be a relatively rare open-air experience — the Citrus Bowl was the first — for fans who for years have flocked to venues like the former SkyDome in Toronto, the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
But the temperate weather in the March-April time frame could be a selling point beyond the outdoor seating.
Lyndsay Rossman, spokeswoman for Visit Jacksonville, said the tourism group is planning to campaign hard to sell wrestling fans from the snowy North on hanging around a few more days to bum around Jacksonville’s beaches.
“We’re looking at this as an event that could flow out of the city,” she said.
An early estimate calls for 15,200 nightly hotel room rentals as fans and the wrestlers themselves settle in Jacksonville for the event, Rossman said.
WrestleMania also would add to the region’s portfolio of high-profile sports events ranging from monster trucks to The Players Championship golf tournament, under way this week in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Bob Downey, the general manager of SMG Jacksonville, which manages the city’s main event centers, points also to last month’s Supercross event that had motorcycles racing and jumping in front of 31,000 fans.
“I’d be surprised if we didn’t get a piece of the [WrestleMania] action,” he said. “This is like the Super Bowl of wrestling. I think it would be a good fit for us.”