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By Mike Johnson on 2024-03-29 12:00:00

Next week, the professional wrestling world descends upon the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, but for many years, the center of professional wrestling in Philly has been the 2300 Arena, formerly known as the ECW Arena.  The venue's CEO Roger Artigiani sat down with to discuss the building's hallowed halls, everything set for Mania weekend and more.  Highlights from the conversation:

Preparing for the big week:

"Everybody is very well. We're as we sit, I'm actually sitting here with my partner, Christie. You've met her several times, we are, we're going around the clock right now, trying to put everything together to make next week as perfect as possible, but as in this business of wrestling, all the plans could be as precise as you want them to be. And if anything can go wrong, it will, but we just we prepare ourselves to take care of anything that's not on the schedule and changes and stuff like that. So we've been working around the clock here to make next week, a special week for all the wrestling fans from not just this area, but from pretty much around the world."

Getting involved with the venue:

"Oh, boy. That's  I got involved in the building 20 years ago, and my impression was to walk in and walk out and a one and done show that I was helping out the current at that time, the current owners of the building. And I went in to help him out for an event had nothing to do with wrestling. It had to do with amateur boxing was a fundraiser. And I don't even know if I shared this with you over the years, but they they put out an amateur event to raise money for amateur boxing.  We had a couple of pro promoters that came through the doors at night. They liked the way everything was run. And they said, what if we do some pro boxing here? Would you be interested in hosting the shows? And that launched the whole the whole whole career, her second career here with with the building and moving forward.  he early years are tough because, the few boxing shows we did, limited amount of wrestling shows we did really wasn't enough to pay the rent and it was really difficult to go through with everything. I was very fortunate 10 years ago or maybe a little bit longer that myself and my current partner, Christie, we got together and said, what are we going to do to make changes here?  We were able to get in and put it to work that right now, the two of us together and we've had some hurdles, of course, like every place else in the in the world with, with COVID and everything, just as we're getting on our feet, we got knocked back down and we've been rebuilding ever since.   Now that we're fully fully operational again, once again, and, people are out spending money and they're out going to events once again, it's taken a while to get back to where we were back in 2019. But that's our story pretty much."

Surviving the Pandemic:

"It was....listen, It was touch and goo. There was no guarantees that we're gonna make it through that time/  We were shut Philadelphia. they shut down a lot longer than a lot of other place in the country as far as capacity levels and we You know there were times and we weren't in there if we're gonna make it another day and like Many other venues.  We went for, government assistance with SCA and everything else. So I have a huge debt load right now. We're carrying a large debt load.   During all that time, we still had to pay the rent, and much of the loans we took out just to keep the place open. Went towards rent and utilities and, limited, very limited payroll.  So it was some dark days there for a while and touch and go whether or not we were going to just close up shop and move along and, find something else to do.   We're fortunate enough to get enough funding in, that, of course, now we've got to pay back. But, we got enough funding in just to keep the lights on and the landlords at bay, because they wanted their money, they didn't care that there was, we couldn't open our doors to our customers. They still wanted their money.  We got to the point where last year in 2023 when we're at full capacity, it still takes some time to ramp up. You don't just open up your doors and all of a sudden you got all these events coming in.  It's taken us, a good year to get ramped up just like other locations. Other locations that have made it are usually the bigger ones that are, your Live Nation places that they have no shortage of of funding to keep them active and running. So it's we're along the same lines of the small bars and taverns and, we're a mom and pop operation.  No matter how much business we do here, we're still, it's just the two of us putting this thing together with, as a fantastic staff. That carries out everything from production to food and beverage to, front of house and you know We do pride ourselves on our service that we offer everyone." 

Evolving the venue from its Wild West days in the 1990s as the CBGBs of professional wrestling:

"Listen, you're very kind to mention CBGBs because it was Taj Mahal compared to this place.   Both of us being from New York, I remember CBs very well and yeah, it was a pretty much a nightmare where every soon as you walk in the door, you had to hit breakers just to turn all the lights on.  It was a real nightmare when we first came in.  Nothing, not a single thing was to code. It just, it was a, it was, listen, it was a challenge and I, sometimes I think back what was I thinking getting involved with this, but it's turned out to be a lot of hard work on both our ends and we worked  extremely hard trying to find the right people to put everything in place and make it so it's as comfortable as possible for fans.  We know the fans, especially, silly fans, but wrestling fans in general. We know that every time they come in there, we get comments all the time. Oh, this is different. This is different. Promoters that haven't been in here for a couple of years or even a few months.  They say, "Wow, this has changed. This has changed." We try and constantly evolve into, a better facility all around.  Back in '94. I bet you never thought you'd see a wedding here or bar mitzvah or the Phillies ring ceremony being held here. It's just things that we had in our minds that we could do anything. and we pretty much proven that we can.   It's just it's been challenging.  Sometimes we sit back and say, 'What are we doing?'  But in the end, we seem to find a way to come through and make a better experience. Back in the day when you first got here, would you ever think that be a chef on duty here?  TNA was just here over the weekend and they, they do a professional job of taking care of their talent and they brought a caterer in and I said, we didn't know you do catering. I says, Yeah, we do. We do catering for the UFC Fight Pass people who come through and record all their shows here.  Along with other jobs we have, but now we're going to be providing catering for the  total  staff of TNA when they come back in June. So it's it's definitely changed over the years. Change over, especially in the last three years, a special we've come through with a lot of good things for everybody from the performers to the people coming in and enjoying a cold beer and a real good hot dog or a very good homemade slice pizza."

Wrestlemania Watch Parties for Charity inside the 2300 Arena next weekend:

"With our watch parties, we got some surprises for everybody.  The biggest surprise is we're really not charging an admission.  All we're asking for a 5 donation that's going to go to the Philly Rescue Angels, an animal shelter rescue.  It's strictly 100 percent of the proceeds go to that organization. We just want people to come on and have a good time. We know WrestleMania is right down the street from us.  here's a lot of people both locally and from around the world that, are coming for everything that's going on during the week that either they couldn't get tickets or they can't afford to have the ticket. So, we're going to do a pregame each day from four to six on Saturday and Sunday.  Then the live show at the live watch party starts at six o'clock. We'll have food specials. We'll have all kinds of contests, quiz n and giveaways and it's hosted by The Blue Meanie who's a Philadelphia icon and who's he's done so much for us here for helping us promote everything.  We're going to have some special guests arriving as well. So a lot of stuff that we have is going to be posted on social media. It's also posted on our website. A lot of special guests are going to be coming through on both Saturday and Sunday to sit down and really, it's not so much a meet and greet, it's to sit down and sit down with the fans and enjoy watching he show at the Lincoln Financial Field. They're going to sit down and have a beer, have a homemade slice of pizza, and they're going to sit with the fans and say, Hey, let's watch this together. We're now we're all fans."

2300 Arena Tours on Wrestlemania Wednesday:

"That was something that I have to hand that off to Christie because she put it all together. Brian sat down with us and we came up with a concept of, we didn't want to go too early. There's some people asking about coming around on Monday and Tuesday, but it's going to be set up days.   So we chose Wednesday for two time slots.  Basically we're gonna do, we're going to show a tour of the building. The building is nothing like it used to be. So, we're gonna use some old video footage on all our LED Screens, which nobody, no facility on the East Coast our size has the LED screens that we do.  We're gonna show some old footage from back in the day.  The Blue Meanie is going to turn around and walk people through, tell some stories about what happened, where, and when, and photo opportunities. Then, they can sit back and have some drinks and some good homemade food from our kitchen and experience the place, when it's in a prep place, when we're prepping for a big show, the place will be already set up.  They can do some photo ops in the ring, and see what the place is before all the craziness happens."

Having so many shows next week sold out in advance:

"It's always a good thing when they sell out in advance.  It's a lot, it's a lot easier on the scheduling, I can tell you that.   We were pretty confident that this would be the one facility that would have no problem selling out some shows as long as you bring the right shows here.  I have nothing against any of the so many promotions that are running that week here in the Philadelphia area, just like every WrestleMania.  You have to have the right show for the right place.   Back when they first announced two years ago, WrestleMania, we were getting calls for rentals and everything.  We waited and made sure that we had shows that could put asses in the seats.   The last thing we want to do is have a couple of shows here that, only had 200 people here.  So, we made sure we went out and we got the right promotions here and it's gonna be exciting.  It's going to be exciting and very long four day stretch for us."

What the chaos of next week means for the staff stress-wise:

"I think the staff handle the stress better than Christie and I do. We, unfortunately, we're the two that have to get everything organized and make sure  all our T's are crossed and I's are dotted and just there's a lot of behind the scenes stuff that we have to take care of.  We're very fortunate to have a great staff that can handle pretty much anything we're throwing at them. The staff is very well versed. with the wrestling crowd, which is a much different crowd than pretty much anybody else we have here and I say different. They're all here.  They're 99. 9 percent of them. It's a friendly atmosphere. It's a family atmosphere. There's no trouble. There's no fights. There's no nobody wants to fight with anybody. They just want to see the action in the ring. I joke around, my son, he's grown up in this place since he was little.  High school kids could be security for, I know it's an extreme analogy, it's just, they just need direction and it's they're not a hardcore CBGB type of crowd. You know what I mean?"

Getting Promotions to tone down as the building evolved with rules and regulations as to what was allowed:

"It really wasn't that hard. Once you start mentioning lawsuits that, you know, back before my time, I don't know how there weren't any major lawsuits here. I happened to witness stuff before I even took over the building. When I was in the process of looking things over where people would get hit with blood and parts of a table, all they wanted at the end of the night, it was a signature on a broken table.   We don't live in that world anymore. And even though some wrestlers are so passionate, you still can't operate like that to me. I know ECW had their extreme take on wrestling. But certain companies after ECW left, we're taking it to another level. They were taking it to a level that did not belong at, in my opinion, anywhere.  It was taken to a very dangerous level for the fan and for the wrestlers themselves. I'm not going to get into mentioning names or companies or anything like that, but we weaned ourself off of that and said, listen, if this is the type of product you're going to bring here, we want to bring a family product here.  That's pretty much we've been able to accomplish is bring a product where you can have kids here, because they're the lifeblood of this whole industry. Once you become a fan, most of them become a fan for life.   When it gets too extreme or too hardcore, then it gets a little bit too nuts, and, like I said, lawsuits can be flying nowadays left and right.  We're trying to make sure that, the fans are safe. the wrestlers are safe. The wrestlers have a job to do and to do that job where they're not being injured or and are causing crazy injuries to themselves.  Let's face it, it's not the '90s anymore."

The ECW Mural:

"The infamous  mural in the men's room.  Christy put together and It's taken on a life of its own with people that all they want to do is get their picture and find the mural.  We've got our share of requests from the ladies that they want one in the ladies room, but we're working on that down the road."

WWE using the venue Mania week:

"Yes, they are.  Iit's on Sunday the 7th  and I don't have the particulars for it. They're bringing some of their top end patrons guess front row seat people and stuff like that, VIPs.  They're gonna be bringing 'em here for a special experience with some WWE talent.   It's private and then we're gonna open up, after they're finished, for our watch party Sunday night."

The future beyond Wrestlemania week:

"We have some good concerts coming up in the fall as well. We have, we're going to, we're going to have special concerts coming up all summer long into the fall.  We do a lot of bar shows now and we have great food in the kitchen now.   I would match our pizza to any pizza place in Philadelphia and probably in New York too."

For more on all things inside and around the 2300 Arena, visit


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