The 29th edition of WWE Inc.'s annual supershow is expected to sell out MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and attract 150,000 fans from all 50 states and 34 countries for a week of festivities in New York City and New Jersey.
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WrestleMania has come a long way since Madison Square Garden hosted the inaugural event in 1985.
WWE is now a public company, based in Stamford, Conn., with 2012 revenues of $484 million. To attract WrestleMania this time, New York and New Jersey had to beat out 14 cities to host the event in bidding that began three years ago.
"They very much approached it in a fashion similar to how you see major markets pursue the Super Bowl or the NCAA finals," WWE senior vice president of special events John Saboor said of the NYC/NJ partnership. "I think they very much pursued this in the vein of an economic development proposition."
$300M economic impact
Over the past five years WrestleMania has generated more than $300 million in economic impact for its host cities, including $103 million last year for Miami, according to Enigma Research Corp., which expects this year's event to eclipse Miami in dollar terms. (The Super Bowl is still much bigger: It brought more than $400 million to New Orleans this year, according to the city and the NFL.)
WrestleMania "is a great opportunity to really market the city to an international audience that tends to stay longer and spend more when they're here," said Emily Mayrath, communications director for NYC & Company, New York City's official tourism bureau.
WrestleMania week has become such an economic engine that even rival wrestling promoters look to catch a ride.
Anthony Nese, head trainer at the New York Wrestling Connection, a Deer Park-based promotion and training facility, will perform in five matches in four days as part of the first-ever WrestleCon in Secaucus, N.J., which will showcase some of the nation's top unsigned talent.
Nese, 27, of Ridge, said some "indie workers" could earn thousands of dollars this weekend, while others will gladly work for free.
"You're going to be opening eyes to other promoters and getting more work in the future," Nese said. "For somebody who needs the exposure, it's definitely worth the expense."
Fan fests, pricey tickets
WrestleMania week includes such WWE-sponsored events as Axxess -- a four-day fan festival at the Izod Center, also in East Rutherford -- and the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony at Madison Square Garden, which will include multiple-time WWE champion and East Setauket native Mick Foley among the new inductees.
The main event is Sunday's WrestleMania XXIX, headlined by grappler-turned-movie star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson taking on WWE superstar John Cena. Ringside tickets are priced at $2,000 and are fetching more than $10,000 on the secondary market.