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Let’s get ready to rumble … economically

Mark Parker



World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Superstars Natalya Neidhart (left) and Osmos pose with custom Tampa Bay Rays jerseys at an Oct. 19 promotional event for the upcoming Royal Rumble. Photos provided.

Pinellas County officials expect one of World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) marquee events to bring over 40,000 people to St. Petersburg and create a significant, lasting economic impact.

Tropicana Field will host WWE’s Royal Rumble in January 2024. Visit St. Pete-Clearwater (VSPC) officials announced people in all 50 states and 15 countries have already bought tickets through a 24-hour presale.

The 2023 Royal Rumble brought 51,338 global fans to San Antonio’s Alamodome. County Commissioner Chris Latvala, speaking Oct. 19 at the TradeWinds Islands Grand Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach, said the event “could very well break attendance records at Tropicana Field.”

“This is history-making,” Latvala added. “Not just for Pinellas County, but for the Tampa Bay area.”

VSPC’s website states that the Jan. 27 Royal Rumble “is the biggest event to come to the Tampa Bay Rays’ home field since the NHL Playoffs in 1996 and NCAA Final Four in 1999.” According to, a New Kids on the Block concert set the Trop’s attendance record in 1990 with 47,150 people.

The 1999 Final Four averaged around 40,000 attendees, and the stadium’s listed capacity is 42,735. Officials expect the Royal Rumble to more than double the 19,704 fans who attended Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series earlier this month.

“I’m sure you’re aware of a proposal by our hometown baseball team,” Latvala said. “That will benefit from this exposure as well. Because it will bring people to St. Petersburg and showcase their wonderful stadium and local attractions around there.”

From left: WWE “Superstar” Natalya Neidhart; Brian Lowack, president of Visit St. Pete-Clearwater; County Commissioner Chris Latvala; WWE “Superstar” Osmos; and Brian Auld, president of the Tampa Bay Rays. Photo: Facebook.

VSPC has not released economic impact projections. Jason Latimer, public relations director, told the Catalyst the organization spent $500,000 of its tourist development tax funding – accrued from overnight stays at county hotels – in its successful bid to secure the Royal Rumble.

The Greater Orlando Sports Commission allocated $850,000 for its bid to host the event at Camping World Stadium. Orange County leaders projected a $28 million economic impact.

WWE’s Royal Rumble is part of the company’s Big 4 Premium Live Events. Those also include WrestleMania, Survivor Series and SummerSlam.

While scripted, professional wrestling is big business. A study conducted by Applied Analysis found that WrestleMania generated a $215 million economic impact for Los Angeles in April.

The Royal Rumble is a step below what WWE stakeholders refer to as their “Super Bowl.” However, the publicly traded company announced that San Antonio’s event collected a record $7.7 million at the gate.

Viewership also increased 52% over the previous benchmark, set in 2022. WWE officials claimed merchandise sales were up 135%, and corporate sponsorship soared nearly 200% compared to 2022’s Royal Rumble.

Latimer said he has heard some Pinellas hotels are already nearing capacity for the Royal Rumble weekend. Tickets went on sale to the general public Oct. 20, and Brian Lowack, CEO of VSPC, said visitors would contribute to local projects long after they leave the area.

“The exposure and marketing benefits, and the visitation we’re going to get from this, are astronomical,” Lowack said. “We can take those monies that we collect from those visitors in their overnight stays and reinvest them in capital projects here, which will increase visitation.”

The 2023 Royal Rumble in San Antonio set ticket sales, merchandise and sponsorship records. Screengrab.

He added that the tourism taxes could help fund beach renourishments and a new ballpark for the Rays. Lowack said VSPC has planned “a ton of activations” the week before the Royal Rumble and throughout that weekend.

The modified battle royale was launched in 1988. It features 30 men and 30 women competing in separate Royal Rumble matches. Participants enter the ring at timed intervals, and the last person standing is declared the winner.

The winners will receive a championship match at WrestleMania 40 in Philadelphia. WWE “Superstar” Natalya Neidhart, a Tampa resident, joined local leaders at the Oct. 19 press conference.

Neidhart noted that the WWE filmed closed shows at Tropicana Field while most of the world shut down during the pandemic. She called the event “a really nice homecoming” and said it was “another way to give back to the community.”

“This … will be the biggest Royal Rumble in WWE history, and it’s going to break records worldwide,” Neidhart added. “Every country around the world will be a part of this show. We will make history here in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay region.”





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