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Sports entertainment powerhouse World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) on Monday announced that WrestleMania 36 won’t take place at a big stadium as planned, but be moved to its Performance Center trainings facility in Orlando due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The company, led by CEO Vince McMahon, has been understood to be in regular touch with city officials from Tampa, Florida, where the big annual event was due to take place April 5. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had suggested cities cancel large-scale events and gatherings for at least 30 days.
“In coordination with local partners and government officials, WrestleMania and all related events in Tampa Bay will not take place,” WWE said in a statement. “However, WrestleMania will still stream live on Sunday, April 5, at 7 p.m. ET on WWE Network and be available on pay-per-view. Only essential personnel will be on the closed set at WWE’s training facility in Orlando, Florida, to produce WrestleMania.”
On Thursday, WWE had said it was planning to move forward with WrestleMania, but had started putting “contingency plans” in place. “While we remain committed to hosting WrestleMania at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, April 5, we are putting contingency plans in place in the event that it is canceled by government officials, civil authorities and/or local venues,” the company said. “The health and safety of our fans, performers and employees are our top priorities and we are monitoring the situation closely with our partners and government officials in Tampa Bay.”
WWE’s Friday edition of Friday Night SmackDown aired without an audience. The company tweeted a day before the show: “Friday Night SmackDown on March 13 will air live as regularly scheduled and emanate from WWE’s training facility in Orlando, FL, with only essential personnel in attendance. The event was originally scheduled in Detroit, MI.”
WrestleMania tends to attract wrestling fans from all over the world, meaning President Donald Trump’s 30-day travel ban for people from Europe, excluding the U.K. and Ireland, was already expected to affect attendance.
Raymond James Stadium, which is home to the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers, seats 65,618, but with the addition of temporary seating, it can be expanded to 75,000.
Monday, March 16, 10:30 p.m. Updated to clarify headline.
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