ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — WWE is bringing its "world-class" virtual fan experience to Tropicana Field next month.
WWE ThunderDome will begin a new residency in St. Petersburg starting with "SmackDown" at 8 p.m. on Dec. 11.
"The move to Tampa Bay marks the next iteration for WWE ThunderDome, which launched to critical acclaim in August as part of WWE’s first-ever residency at Amway Center in Orlando," the entertainment company wrote in a news release.
The immersive viewing atmosphere brings thousands of fans together -- virtually, using live video. To pull it off, WWE ThunderDome uses a state-of-the-art set, video boards, pyrotechnics, lasers, graphics and even drone cameras. It recently earned top honors for best virtual fan experience at this year's Sportel Awards.
“We are proud to have reimagined the in-arena atmosphere and provide an interactive experience like nothing else in sports and entertainment with the launch of WWE ThunderDome,” said Kevin Dunn, WWE Executive Producer & Chief, Global Television Production, in a news release. “Our fans’ response and industrywide recognition are both humbling and further validation of the innovative spirit and passion that exist across the entire WWE organization.”
"Monday Night Raw," "Friday Night SmackDown," and WWE pay-per-view events will be produced on closed sets inside Tropicana Field. Only essential workers will be there in person, while the crowd will appear virtually.
WWE says its on-site staff members will adhere to strict health and safety protocols that include mask-wearing, social distancing and coronavirus testing.
“The Tampa Bay Rays are excited to welcome WWE to Tropicana Field for this residency and shine a spotlight on the Tampa Bay area for WWE fans around the world,” Tampa Bay Rays President Matt Silverman wrote in a statement. “The ballpark will be transformed to host the spectacle of WWE ThunderDome, allowing fans to enjoy this wildly popular experience virtually.”
Fans who would like to have a virtual seat at an upcoming WWE show can register through www.WWEThunderDome.com or at WWE’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages.
“Hollywood celebrities, WWE Legends and millions of fans from around the world have all enjoyed what the world-class WWE ThunderDome has to offer,” added Brian Flinn, WWE's chief marketing and communications officer. “This new residency will enable us to continue offering an unmatched live spectacle and would not have been possible without the strong support from the Tampa Bay Rays organization. We remain grateful for the hospitality provided by the Amway Center over the past four months.”
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