The WWE ThunderDome at Tropicana Field was recently covered by Eduardo A. Encina of The Tampa Bay Times. Encina spoke with WWE’s Senior Vice President of Event & Technical Operations, Duncan Leslie, who noted that WWE has a much larger footprint than usual with the ThunderDome setup.
“What’s different is the scope and magnitude of the Thunderdome,” Leslie said. “We have a very large footprint when we tour, up to about 30 trucks, but this is much more complex because of the amount of video product where we display all the virtual fans, and the lighting and the projections and lasers and pyro. So it’s a bigger footprint, and it takes more technical horsepower.”
John Saboor, WWE’s Executive Vice President of Special Events, was also interviewed. He referred to WWE fans as their “jet fuel” and said the company can’t wait to have them back in person.
“Our fans are our jet fuel,” Saboor said. “And we can’t wait to welcome them back in person. But the spectacle of the ThunderDome and Tropicana Field allows us to continue to create an exciting immersive and interactive experience for the WWE Universe.”
It was noted that Leslie has a 150-man technical crew that he uses for every RAW, SmackDown and pay-per-view production at the ThunderDome.
WWE Champion Drew McIntyre was interviewed for the piece. He discussed his elaborate entrance and how it feels to the wrestlers.
“The visuals are unbelievable,” McIntyre said. “And it makes it more palatable for the viewer at home, but also as a WWE superstar, you feel like you’re back in that environment that we were used to back in the day.
“The biggest thing of all is getting the fans back, even if it’s just virtually. They react in real time, we see them on the screen. As we do our moves, they react and we hear them through the speakers. Even though they can’t be there physically, they’re still there.”
Saboor talked about changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and said WWE is dedicated to delivering the best fan experience possible with The ThunderDome, and improving on that experience every time they bring it live on air.
“This pandemic has taught the entire sports entertainment industry — has taught the entire world — how to rethink, reshape, redeliver everything,” Saboor said. “And I have no doubt that there will be a great number of best practices that are taken forward and applied to whatever the new normal is whenever that is.
“Right now we’re dedicated to delivering the best fan experience possible with ThunderDome and improving on that each and every time we bring that to air.”