Location, location?: ROH on WrestleMania 35 Weekend

With news of Ring of Honor breaking their all-time attendance record for the forthcoming April show in New Orleans over WrestleMania 34 weekend (Supercard of Honor), it’s time to think of an even greater logistical challenge: next year’s WrestleMania weekend. With a (rumored) not yet announced return to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, what is Ring of Honor to do in the New York market?

Ring of Honor already regularly sells out their home base in the New York market- the Hammerstein Ballroom, just across the street from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, the venue maxes out at 1,800 for ROH’s logistical setup. In 2013 (the last time WrestleMania was in town), ROH ran a double shot in the building. The first day in the larger Hammerstein (1,800) and the next day in the smaller Manhattan Center (upstairs, drawing a near sellout of 850).

2013 was a very different time for ROH. They hadn’t yet found a groove in the Sinclair era and the overall attendance was a struggle (about 600) as compared to 2017 (just over 1,100). Today, Ring of Honor is a much hotter promotion- especially with a buzz and affiliation with New Japan Pro Wrestling and The Bullet Club. Although things change quickly in the wrestling business, it would be fair to assume that things will remain consist for next year or even show growth. Do remember that a Sinclair-Tribune merger is on the horizon and TV is expected in the New York market once the sale closes (WPIX; Channel 11). Although TV is no longer a panacea for what ails wrestling attendance, it certainly won’t hurt. So, where to place a growing wrestling promotion over the biggest weekend of the year, in the biggest U.S. market? This is a difficult challenge.

In terms of venue size and location alone, the perfect venue in any other world would be the Theatre at Madison Square Garden. The Theatre has hosted wrestling in the past (including AAA and WCW many years ago) and can seat around 5,000. The challenge is, can you get the venue? If the WWE plans to hold any WrestleMania related events at MSG that weekend, the answer would be no. The WWE would probably ask that no related events be hosted at MSG related venues that weekend. I feel it is likely next year that The Hall of Fame, NXT, Raw and Smackdown will be at more than one venue: perhaps MSG, Barclays Center and Newark. Those venues are too busy to remain dark for other events (especially NBA and NHL teams) for that many days in a row.

Although WrestleMania will be outdoors, a venue like MCU Park in Brooklyn (which ROH has an existing relationship with- based on past Field of Honor events) would be unlikely to host events out of season. One could explore a larger college gym in Brooklyn or Queens, but I can’t remember a spot like Carnesecca Arena  (St. Johns)- 5,600 seats-  ever hosting wrestling. Venues outside of New York proper (or even in the Bronx or Staten Island), require more of a commitment on a fan’s part and would be hard to attract people away from the heart of activities. A site like the Westchester County Center (a long time WWE ‘B’ or ‘C’ show level venue), Poughkeepsie’s Mid-Hudson Civic Center  or Trenton’s CURE Insurance Arena are just too far out for those not from the area.

So what is Ring of Honor to do? The likely answer is remain at the Hammerstein, charge higher prices and perhaps string together 2-3 shows (3,600-5,400 tickets) that have an episodic feel, such as a tournament, to attract fans to return. Are there some viable venues that were not mentioned? What would you suggest?

Lavie Margolin is the author of TrumpMania: Vince McMahon, WWE and the making of America’s 45th President.

 

Tweet/Follow Lavie via @Laviemarg .

 

Full disclosure: Lavie is a shareholder of Sinclair Broadcast Group.

 

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