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Wrestlemania 24 headed to Orlando
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling
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Wrestlemania 23 may still be 12 days away, but the location for next year's event was announced this morning at a press conference in Orlando, Florida. For the first time in history, Wrestlemania will be in the sunshine state at the Citrus Bowl.

The home of the University of Central Florida football team and site of the annual New Years Day football classic, Capital One Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl and Florida Classic holds 70,000 people. More than 60,000 fans from around the world are expected to attend the 24th edition of Wrestlemania on March 30, 2008.

"The advantage of aligning our community with one of the world's most famous and exciting brands is immeasurable," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer in a press release. "Tens of thousands of visitors from around the world will visit our city next March for WrestleMania 24. Additionally, for the next 12 months, Orlando will be recognized as the home of the Super Bowl of sports entertainment to millions of WWE fans around the world, creating invaluable exposure. We are tremendously honoured to welcome this great event to the City of Orlando for the first time."

The press conference was attended by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, Batista, John Cena, Melina, Ashley Massaro and Bobby Lashley. The media turnout was very large.

McMahon credited Dyer for being the first mayor to ever come courting about his city hosting the WWE's premiere event. Dyer actually flew up to WWE's Connecticut headquarters to discuss the idea.

"It's about time Florida hosted a WrestleMania," said McMahon in the release. "We could not be more excited about bringing WrestleMania, the world's No. 1 sports entertainment event, to Orlando, the No.1 tourist destination in the world."

Brian Fritz, host of the Between the Ropes radio show on 740 The Team in Orlando, was at the press conference today. He told SLAM! Wrestling that the highlights were two fans dressed almost exactly like MNM that got a reaction from McMahon, and a memorable exchange between Batista and a fan.

Batista, who lives in nearby Tampa, joked that maybe he'd walk to the event. Or hitchhike. A fan cried out that he'd give Batista a ride. The champ from Smackdown said, "You're a good-looking dude, but I don't swing that way."

The event will also be the first Wrestlemania held outdoors since Wrestlemania 9 in Las Vegas. Wrestlemania XIX was held in baseball stadium Safeco Field in Seattle however the stadium roof was closed for that event.

Orlando is one of the top tourist destinations in North America with DisneyWorld, Universal Studios and many other attractions that will be sure to draw interest from many who may not have attended a Wrestlemania before. (No word yet if TNA plans to run any shows at Universal Studios to capitalize on the influx of wrestling fans.)

According to figures generated by the Central Florida Sports Commission, WrestleMania 24 is expected to pump an estimated $25 million into the local economy, while also creating jobs.

Fritz acknowledged that there will be a lot of international fans at WrestleMania 24, but felt it was a reward for loyal followers in Florida. "It's a really big deal. It shows Orlando's really on the map," Fritz said. "For the great fans here in this city, they're going to love the event."

Though not confirmed, Monday Night Raw is expected to be in Tampa the night after 'Mania, and Smackdown taped on Tuesday in Jacksonville or Miami.

-- with files from Greg Oliver

Jason Clevett is from Calgary, Alberta and will be attending his fifth Wrestlemania in Detroit.