It’s been almost eight years since the world first got a glimpse at a Super Bowl “bid book,” the document that, in painstaking detail, lays out what the NFL requires of a host city for its annual championship game. Minnesota’s Star-Tribune newspaper broke the story, which most memorably noted that there were almost 200 amenities that must be provided “at no cost to the NFL.” So it was only natural that, three years ago, when I embarked on a project to use public record requests to get as much WrestleMania information as possible from host cities in the “bid” era that started with WrestleMania 23, a “bid book” would be my white whale. But by the time I collected my findings for MEL Magazine in 2020, I still hadn’t gotten my hands on it.
That would change.
I knew it couldn’t be impossible. After all, the Star-Tribune get the Super Bowl bid book via public record requests, so it was only a matter of time and patience. In 2021, I asked for “All ‘bid books’ or functionally equivalent documents provided to the Tampa Sports Authority for the purposes of soliciting bids for the NFL’s Super Bowl and/or WWE’s WrestleMania.” And it worked, with Tampa providing two different PDF documents:
- 2021-2025 – WrestleMania Stadium Specs.pdf (The proposal timeline given in the document pegs it as being distributed in March 2018.)
- Super Bowl LII LIV and LV Host City Bid Specifications (Updated 2-29-16) – Clean Version.pdf
Obviously, WrestleMania is going to be the priority here, but the Super Bowl version—a slicker production than what the Star-Tribune got in 2014—serves as a good point of comparison. So, what’s in it? Before we dive in, there’s a caveat: Though the page numbering suggests that the 12 pages of “WrestleMania Stadium Specs” were pulled from a larger tome, the Tampa Sports Authority was less than clear when I asked them about this. “We have no other records pertaining to this request,” the anonymous public record specialist replied when I asked if what they sent was pulled from a longer document.
How the WrestleMania Sausage Gets Made
Let’s start with the big one: What is explicitly outlined as something that should be provided “at no cost to WWE” in the document?
- Allocation of “20 executive-sized suites and 2 party suites with seating for 50-100 and the press box facilities.”
- “Sufficient space in the Stadium […] for crew ad talent catering during event move-in and move-out, and for on-site pre-event hospitality/entertaining.”
- “Providing all utilities, construction of additional temporary risers is requested including power ,lighting, house lighting, house sound, by WWE, the arrangements would be made by WWE, and HVAC.”
- “Sufficient parking” for all WWE production and personnel vehicles, as well as other basic necessities involving access to the stadium.
- “[A]ll existing scoreboards, video screens. LED boards, and labor to operate the screens.”
- Box office services if available.
- The rights to use the stadium logo in WWE promotional material.
- “[A]ll WrestleMania-related broadcast and media rights” in perpetuity, though it’s not clear why WWE would even need to ask for this in the first place.
- Though prefaced with it being a “request” on WWE’s part, they also want “20 executive-sized suites and 2 party suites with seating for 50-100 and the press box facilities be allocated at no cost for WWE use.”
Perhaps most curiously, the document’s only mention of a potential site fee or sanctioning fee paid to WWE is relatively non-committal. ““The Local Organizing Committee should provide a representation as to any proposed site fee to be remitted for the placement of WrestleMania within the city,” it reads. “The Local Organizing Committee should also provide an indication as to how and when that site fee would be transmitted.” The most complete financial documentation that I obtained for the MEL article—a heavily annotated, 181 page “disbursement report” for WrestleMania 32 in Arlington, Texas, also site of this weekend’s WrestleMania 38—pegs that fee at $350,000. If WWE has tried to keep pace with inflation, then one would think that the site or sanctioning fee has increased in the last six years to something greater than the inflation-adjusted price of $413,740.43.
Also curious is how Ticketmaster service charges are handled. is that WWE writes that “[the] Stadium should pay all credit card commissions at the box office; such credit card commissions can be built into the Ticketmaster convenience charge for tickets sold at outlets, by phone, and on the internet.” WWE’s announced gate figures for WrestleMania include service fees, which they don’t actually get themselves, and this is just black and white proof of those fees are not going to them. (That said, the total quarterly figures in WWE’s SEC filings can be assumed to only include the money that actually flowed into WWE, though WWE did not respond to an email asking for clarification on this.) The stadium also retains the custody of their suite level seats and up to 300 non-suite comp tickets. Also of note, “the minimum capacity need is approximately 65,000,” and “WWE should retain 100% of revenues from ticket sales.”
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No, the WWE version of the bid book isn’t close to as sprawling, ostentatious, or audacious to the NFL version. (At least barring the possibility that the Tampa Sports Authority held back portions of a larger document, which isn’t exactly out of the question.) It doesn’t ask for hundreds of increasingly ridiculous concessions. It doesn’t even ask for some of the things we know that host cities have paid for in the past despite having no tangible benefit for them, like the $100,000 that the city of Arlington paid for various decorative signs around town in 2016. (If the tourists are already in town for WrestleMania, what benefit do the signs provide for the city?) But it still provides a previously unprecedented look into how the WrestleMania sausage is made.