‘RAW Live’ wrestling hulks up audience to a sellout at Covelli Centre

By David Skolnick

Only a February boxing card headlined by Kelly Pavlik had a larger crowd.

YOUNGSTOWN — A World Wrestling Entertainment “RAW Live” show packed 7,038 fans into the newly named Covelli Centre, making it the second- largest audience at an event at the facility in its history.

“To see thousands of fans waiting for the doors to open is remarkable,” said Eric Ryan, the center’s executive director. “The community support of this facility lately has been amazing, and we truly appreciate that they are choosing to spend their hard-earned discretionary money with us.”

Mayor Jay Williams said he was pleased that such a large crowd came to the city-owned center for the wrestling show.

The most-attended event at the facility, formerly known as the Chevrolet Centre, was a Feb. 21 boxing card headlined by Kelly Pavlik’s successful defense of his middleweight championship. That show brought 7,334 fans to the center.

The center opened in October 2005.

The WWE eight-match show Saturday was headlined by John Cena and Batista defeating the team of Big Show and Randy Orton. The face value of tickets to the show were $60, $40, $30, $20 and $15.

The wrestling card was sold-out to the public, Ryan said.

The reason the Pavlik fight had a larger crowd is the center’s suite level was sold out, including standing-room-only tickets, he said. Attendance to Saturday’s WWE show at the suite level was excellent, but not as large as the Pavlik event, Ryan said.

Wrestling has been a strong draw for the center.

More than 6,200 tickets were sold for a July 25, 2008, WWE RAW presents SummerSlam Tour show on a Friday.

“We hope the next show here is for TV,” Ryan said.

The issue with WWE television is the shows are broadcast in high-definition and the “cameras need more space than we have” at the center, Ryan said.

The company may purchase smaller high-definition equipment so it can broadcast shows from arenas the size of Youngstown’s, he said.

WWE filmed episodes of its “SmackDown” and “ECW” television shows at the center on Aug. 7, 2007, before the company started to broadcast in HD.

This was the first major show at the facility since a deal was announced April 29 that it would be called the Covelli Centre. Covelli Enterprises, a Warren-based company that owns Panera Bread and O’Charley’s restaurant franchises, is paying $120,000 annually for three years for the naming rights.

Willie Nelson is in concert at the center 8 p.m. Friday. More than 3,000 tickets for the concert are sold with a crowd of about 4,000 to 4,100 expected, Ryan said.

The face value of tickets to the show are $47.50 and $37.50.

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