‘This is their Mecca:’ South Philly braces for a jam-packed WrestleMania weekend

Philadelphia Convention and Tourism Bureau anticipates 50,000 visitors will travel to Philadelphia for WrestleMania weekend.

Wells Fargo Center and Lincoln Financial Field

WrestleMania is coming to the sports complex in Philadelphia. (AP)

From Philly and the Pa. suburbs to South Jersey and Delaware, what would you like WHYY News to cover? Let us know!

The WWE’s getting ready to take over Philadelphia this weekend when WrestleMania XL sets up shop at Lincoln Financial Field.

On Saturday and Sunday, thousands of wrestling fans will pack the stadium to witness “the granddaddy of them all” in what’s shaping up to be two stacked cards featuring various WWE superstars, including The Rock, Cody Rhodes, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins.

Roughly 50,000 people will be traveling to Philadelphia for the event, according to PHL Sports Executive Director Larry Needle.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“In L.A. last year, they had fans from every state and 60 countries. We think that’s a realistic estimate again for this year from what we’ve seen in terms of ticket sales,” Needle said. “It’s such a global and incredibly passionate fan base. This is their Mecca, and they will make this pilgrimage every year.”

Combined, over 90,000 tickets were sold for this year’s events when they first went on sale last August, setting a new WrestleMania record for first-day ticket sales — surpassing the previous record of $21.5 million dollars.

At the Wells Fargo Center, Friday Night SmackDown, NXT’s Stand and Deliver on Saturday, and Monday Night Raw will be held in front of sold-out crowds.

Michael Sulkes is the General Manager of the Wells Fargo Center, and a lifelong fan of the WWE. Sulkes was 13 when he attended WrestleMania XV at the exact same arena in 1999.

“Obviously, now, it’s outgrown arenas,” Sulkes said. “It’s not even one night anymore. It’s two nights across the street at Lincoln Financial Field, to the point where we have three separate sold-out events here at Wells Fargo Center and surrounding it. Just to see how it’s grown the last 25 years, it’s absolutely incredible. But if you were here 25 years ago, you could see it coming because it felt bigger than a normal wrestling event.”

Michael Sulkes in his office
Wells Fargo Center GM Michael Sulkes attended WrestleMania XV at the Wells Fargo Center (when it was known as the First Union Center) 25 years ago. Now, he’ll be overlooking the entire weekend of shows set to take place at the arena. (Courtesy of Comcast Spectacor)

Roughly 17,000 people will pack the venue for each show, according to Wells Fargo arena President Phil Lawes.

“About 6,000 of those people actually bought tickets for all three of the events here at the arena,” he said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“I think there’s going to be a light bulb over the head moment for a lot of Philadelphians when they see the WWE Universe descend upon Philadelphia and see what a big deal this is,” Sulkes said. “It’s going to take over the city, and I mean that in the best possible way. I couldn’t be more excited.”

old ticket stub
Michael Sulkes still has his original ticket stub from when he attended WrestleMania XV 25 years ago. (Courtesy of Comcast Spectacor)

The WWE is also hosting WWE World at WrestleMania at the Pennsylvania Convention Center until Monday.

SEPTA has added additional service on the Broad Street Line and Regional Rail routes for people looking to beat the traffic around the South Philadelphia Sports Complex and beyond this weekend.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal