October 17, 2010
WWE return to Vancouver 'more than doable' says official
By FRED JOHNS - SLAM! Wrestling
VANCOUVER -- A recent SLAM! Wrestling story about World Wrestling Entertainment canceling a show in Vancouver because of a dispute with the city has prompted a Vancouver city official to assure wrestling fans that the city is very much interested in the WWE returning. But can the situation be handled before any more damage is done to the city's Wrestlemania bid?
The WWE show to be held October 16th was cancelled, along with a show to be held in Victoria the following day, months back. As reported here, the WWE pulled its events after concerns about new bylaw changes were not resolved in time. Specifically, the WWE and the City of Vancouver could not come to an agreement over the issue of a seat tax increase and new insurance requirements.
WWE Vice-President of Governmental Relations Rich Hering said he was hopeful the issues could eventually be worked out but said the WWE had done all it could.
"I'm sure the city will revise their current regulations and will make a decision as to whether they want to change the rules and if they do, we will absolutely consider coming back," Hering told SLAM! Wrestling. "Right now, however, it's up to the City to review their existing guidelines."
SLAM! Wrestling had contacted the Vancouver City Manager office to inquire about the new bylaw change and its requirements for professional wrestling, but did not receive a reply before print deadlines.
A day after SLAM! Wrestling published its report on the WWE cancellation in Vancouver, the Deputy Chief License Inspector for the city, Tom Hammel, got in touch to outline the city's position.
Hammel said he was in discussions with the WWE's Hering about the issues concerning the new changes.
"He was asking questions and I answered them and within a couple of days, they cancelled the show," Hammel recalled. "I guess they felt they would be able to resolve the insurance and other issues in time but I guess that didn't happen."
Hammel acknowledged some changes were made to the existing bylaws and part of the reason for those changes was a need for more revenue. "The City did increase seat taxes to all activities sanctioned by the Vancouver Athletic Commission and yes that does impact pro wrestling," Hammel said. "We did that because we wanted to ensure the Commission had enough revenue coming in to cover its costs, and the administrative costs for all the processing and reviewing -- all the work they need to do sanction events."
On the subject of insurance, Hammel added, "We also tightened up some of the insurance requirements as a result of a review we did because of the MMA situation. But the requirements we have for wrestling are nowhere near those we have for the UFC. We do realize they are in fact at a different level of risk and that it's not the same as an MMA event."
Hammel stated that the City and its Athletic Commission were currently reviewing the seat tax and insurance requirements not just for the wrestling, but for all events sanctioned by the Commission. "The Commission has indicated that they want to look at the fee level to ensure the requirements are standardized for the different types of events in such a way that it protects the city's interests and are also reasonable for promoters. We're going to look at that seat tax and see if that is still appropriate for pro wrestling."
One of the first arguments to be put forth by those opposed to the bylaw changes was that the City of Vancouver was simply anti-combat sports. Indeed, the decision to hold the UFC event in June was controversial and that event was almost not sanctioned. Many people in the city were appalled that such a "violent, barbaric" sport would be held in the same city that hosted the Olympics, but in the end, that did not stop the City from approving the event.
"We're not anti-combat," Hammel explained, "but we do want to make sure our risks are protected because the City is involved in sanctioning these events so there is potential liability and risk when they are put on as we are directly involved in setting regulations for these events. We just want to make sure we have appropriate measures in place to make sure our risks are protected, the promoters have the proper insurance to cover any losses or claims they might incur and that the appropriate safeguards are in place for the fighters."
He went on to say that the City has enjoyed a good relationship with not just the WWE, but other wrestling promotions, including Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling, which holds frequent events within the city. Hammel also indicated the City was very much open to further discussions with the WWE and hoped it would eventually return for a date in 2011.
But what about Wrestlemania, for 2013 or beyond?
Just as Vancouver finalized and announced the UFC's arrival in town for a June 12 show back in April, World Wrestling Entertainment announced it was indeed in discussions with "interested parties" to bring Wrestlemania to Vancouver within the next three years. There were hurdles to overcome, the WWE stated at the time, but it was confirmed that Vancouver was certainly a contender to be a host city for pro wrestling's biggest event.
"We did receive a letter from an interested third party," WWE spokesperson Robert Zimmerman told the Vancouver Sun newspaper in its April 6th edition. "We haven't received any official word from the City of Vancouver yet. They'd have to send correspondence that they're interested in doing something with us, then the city would have to meet our criteria to even submit a full bid."
Back then, it was likely assumed that with its 25-year history with the WWE, Vancouver would be more than willing to host and event that would not only bring thousands of tourism dollars to town but also enhance the "world-class city" label it had been trying to establish in the time both before and after the Winter Olympics. Still, the WWE was careful not to take anything for granted.
"We want to make sure there's an infrastructure that will ensure those people have a great WrestleMania experience, so the process is a long one and we need, first and foremost, to make certain the city wants us there," Zimmerman told the Sun.
Hammel didn't know where the Wrestlemania bid was at.
"Once they review the existing requirements for pro wrestling, it's hard to say," Hammel admitted. "We could change the requirements in such a way that would possibly facilitate the event rather than make it more difficult. It's just too early to say."
The City has not heard from the WWE since the cancellation but remains optimistic that the issues can be worked out so the sports entertainment company can return sometime next year. Hammel went so far as to say that finding a way to help smooth the path for the WWE's return was "more than doable." He said that while pro wrestling may not be the city's #1 priority, he felt it was important to address the issues reported in the recent SLAM! Wrestling piece.
"I didn't want to leave the impression that the city wasn't willing to look at the requirements or help the WWE to come back," he explained. "I didn't want to leave the impression that we didn't want them to come back because that's not the case at all."
Fred Johns has retuned to SLAM Wrestling to cover the West Coast scene. He can be reached at King_of_Chips@hotmail.com. Evidently, he will not be covering the October WWE event.