Fears Of Terrorism Dwarfs Bout

The year’s largest planned outdoor arena event in the U.S. has been derailed by fear of terrorist attacks. Titan Sports and the Los Angeles Coliseum have thrown a headlock on the annual WrestleMania grapplefest, and Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter and other muscled matmen will instead bodyslam within the small confines of the L.A. Sports Arena.

A title grudge match pitting Iraq (Sgt. Slaughter) against America (Hulk Hogan) was proving too volatile. Titan Sports, which owns the World Wrestling Federation, was faced with mid-six figure costs to duplicate security measures used at Super Bowl XXV.

Though both the WWF and Coliseum management deny it, sources said the arena made the security request and stopped selling tickets when the parties couldn’t agree. They finally agreed on one thing: 1991 wasn’t the year to pack 100,000 fans, mostly kids, into an open arena. The event was then moved to the Sports Arena, which Spectacor also manages.

WWF spokesman Steve Planamenta said the decision was Titan’s to make and that costs weren’t the deciding factor.

“The reason we’re doing it is the comfort and well-being of the fans,” said Planamenta. “To my knowledge, there was never any discussion of dollars; it wasn’t a financial decision. We could not build a barracks around any arena or stadium and expect kids to come out and enjoy it. Bomb sniffing dogs, barbed wire fences and concrete structures – that’s not WrestleMania.”

Since the 15,000 seats already sold will be switched to the other arena, the event is already a sellout. The WWF pins its profit hopes squarely on pay-per-view.

Rumors that lagging ticket sales also were a consideration in the arena switch were denied: “The only thing we have to go on is past history,” said Planamenta. “Last year we sold 67,000 in a month-and-a-half campaign, and in 1987 we sold 93,000 in a month-and-a-half.”

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