WWE and Tampa & Hillsborough County continue to play chicken on WrestleMania 36, which is still scheduled for Sun., April 5 at Raymond James Stadium despite the coronavirus pandemic.
With a national emergency in effect and calls for social distancing to combat the spread of COVID-19, including a recommendation from Florida’s Governor to cancel mass gatherings in the state, few expect WWE’s biggest event of the year will go forward as planned in three weeks. But neither government or company officials have been willing to make the call to cancel or postpone WrestleMania.
Thursday (Mar. 12) was a particularly chaotic day on that front, with Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller deferring an announcement until a WWE press conference he said was coming later in the day. Not only did that presser not happen, but WWE issued a statement which essentially put the ball back in the government’s court.
Miller seems to be sticking to the county’s new deadline of next week. But while he isn’t declaring a decision just yet, he did send a pretty clear signal on Friday.
Fox 13, Tampa’s local affiliate WTVT, got this quote from the County Commissioner:
“I’m hoping that Vince McMahon and WrestleMania and WWE make the call themselves but a week from now, if they’ve not done that and we’re still in the situation we’re in, we’ll probably have to pull the plug on that.”
That’s not the only indication of which way local officials are leaning. In the same article, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister urges Vince McMahon’s company not to “put profit over public safety”.
In cancelling two planned St. Patrick’s Day events in the city, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said “bringing groups of people is the last thing we can do”.
They don’t sound like people who can support putting tens of thousands of people in local venues early next month.
It’s conceivable WWE could make this year’s ‘Mania an empty stadium show, or attempt to screen attendees on their way into Raymond James (or Amalie Arena for ancillary events like the Hall of Fame Ceremony and NXT TakeOver). But the former isn’t desirable, and the latter might not be feasible.
We’ll find out more next week.