AS I SEE IT
by: Bob Magee
I went to the ECW Arena show this past Saturday evening.
This night should have been a historic one for Philadelphia wrestling fans with the first TNN taping held in Philadelphia, not that we knew about this fact until we got into the building and saw the TNN entrance for the backstage area. We'll go into that in a minute.
November 27th, 1999...what should have been a historic night...
After six years of being the outlaw promotion from the Bingo Hall, the one that gave fans some of the best wrestling in the United States in 1994-1995; that saw names including Eddie Gilbert, Terry Funk, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Misterio, Jr., Psicosis, Juventud Guererra, Steve Williams...and more, thrilling fans in a way that the Big Two weren't....that finally got a PPV in 1997, seen by a relatively small audience...that promotion was finally getting its moment in the sun with a TV taping to be seen all over North America.
A night to celebrate... But what happened instead?
1,700 people were jammed into a building with a fire law crowd limit of well below that number. I personally observed a number of those people jammed behind stands and building columns with very little actual view of the action. Frequent ECW observer Mike Johnson was quoted widely online as saying that 600 people were turned away. That's 600 people, including some with tickets in their hands, who were turned away at the door.
Instead of being a night to celebrate, November 27th was a night that reminded Philadelphia fans they weren't very high on the priority list of the very promotion that started there, ECW. It also reminded fans and observers that ECW is STILL not one of the major promotions in the United States yet...because they still aren't thinking like a business.
Living in the Philadelphia area, I've been to probably 85-90% of the shows at the ECW Arena since the first one held there on May 15, 1993.
ECW as a promotion has OUTGROWN the Arena. Period. Even Dave Scherer, who would certainly be thought of as a supporter of the promotion has been calling for the company to move to a bigger building for at least 2 years now.
ECW CANNOT continue to throw away potential ticket and revenue money by holding its shows there. It cannot continue to throw away the opportunity to run PPVs by running its Philadelphia shows there.
Just think if the first TNN taping was in a venue where ECW could have ADVERTISED that fact...where locals could have come to the first North American TV taping done in Philadelphia. Can you imagine the crowd they would have drawn? There was a potential crowd of 2,300 people there WITHOUT it being publicly announced as a TNN taping. But ECW couldn't fit them all in, because of the size of the Arena.
As it was, every fire law in the city of Philadelphia was violated with the crowd that was in the building. The posted fire law crowd limit in the Arena is WELL below 1,700. ECW and Paul Heyman has best never get an unannounced visit from the Philadelphia fire marshall, or a show will wind up being shut down. Imagine what the crowd reaction would be to that.
There are also some very real safety issues involved, too. 1,700 people stuffed in the ECW Arena is simply not safe. In the event of a fire or some other emergency, a tragedy is just waiting to happen.
There are still those who don't want to see the company move its Philadelphia shows out of the Arena. They say it's intimate, special, unique. Those descriptions of its atmosphere are all true.
But intimacy isn't the issue at this point. ECW is a business. It's giving up on potential revenue, which is just plain bad business. Fans have GOT to start thinking of ECW as a business first. So does the company itself.
One could reasonably assume that there are additional people who simply will NOT come to the Arena because of how overly packed it is most nights, as well as its location. That's even MORE revenue not being made by ECW. Further, many of those people buy merchandise, which brings even more money in for the company and the workers, meaning that there is still more revenue not being made.
Revenue allows a company like ECW that badly needs all the revenue it can get...to keep talent, to retire outstanding debts to workers, have money available for advertising to allow for future growth, and so on.
The fact that we see so many former ECW favorites in WCW and the WWF, just the is because ECW couldn't afford to keep them. To do that, a larger/mid-sized venue has GOT to be used.
Here are a few of the venues in Philadelphia that ECW has GOT to investigate switching its shows to. By that I mean a SERIOUS effort. Not just lip service...not just falling back on the Arena because it has a sweetheart deal for rent from the Viking Club Mummers Club; but a SERIOUS effort with a target date for moving to the new venue.
The following is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a start.
* The Apollo at Temple (University).
This newly opened venue can be configured for 1,000 to over 10,000; and is in need of events. It is located less than two miles from Philadelphia’s City Hall. The Broad Street Subway (a major mass transit line), as well as SEPTA (local mass transit) buses deliver event attendees right to the front door. Along with SEPTA, there is a safe indoor connected parking garage, and a number of well-lighted, close-by surface lots.
* McGonigle Hall (also at Temple University).
The venue has a capacity of 3,900, has hosted wrestling events in the past, and has excellent sight lines.
It is also accessible to the Broad Street Subway, SEPTA buses, and to street parking.
McGonigle and the Apollo are both "TV friendly" with facilities in place to allow for a professional looking shoot of TV or PPV.
* The Drexel Physical Education Center on 34th and Market Streets.
About 4 years ago, ECW ran what was (probably) a sold show there that didn't draw that well, due to the sponsoring group.
But these days it might be a different thing altogether. The PEAC has a mid-sized seating capacity, larger than the Arena. It can be configured for various crowds of several thousand.
It looks nice (TV friendly),is accessible to the Market-Frankford Elevated, several trolley lines, and SEPTA buses. It is also 4 blocks from Regional Rail and AMTRAK lines.
While supposedly only used for University of Pennsylvania basketball, it has a 9,000 seat capacity for basketball, could be configured somewhat; and with the right approach by ECW's new corporate sponsors could possibly be utilized by the company.
It looks nice (TV friendly),is accessible to the Market-Frankford Elevated, several trolley lines, is 4 blocks from Regional Rail and AMTRAK lines; which would allow people coming in from out-of-town to shows to get there easily.
All of the above venues would allow for Ticketmaster ticket distribution, which already occurs in most ECW venues in other cities. This would allow for telephone orders, as well as online orders through Ticketmaster Online. This, as opposed to the slapdash manner in which tickets are sold for Arena shows.
More than once, existing ECW staff has botched ticket orders for even Club ECW ticket holders at the Arena. That would remove them from involvement in the process, and allow people to KNOW they had an actual seat when they came to the building.
This would also allow for the building to be opened at a standard time, as opposed to people having to stand outside the Arena for as much as 5 hours to wait for whenever the current ticket staff decides to open the doors. That would stop the frequent problem of people waiting in line start drinking from early afternoon on...leaving cases of beer bottles smashed in front of the Arena, in the parking lot, and in some neighboring streets.
There may be other venues in the Philadelphia area that might also serve this purpose, but these four venues are a start for a short list for the new venue of ECW in Philadelphia.
Until next time.....
To Order Mick's Book
If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org