As WWE has navigated a world without live crowds due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, it eventually settled into a groove with the introduction of the ThunderDome. WWE placed walls of video screens throughout the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, allowing fans to virtually "attend" events beginning in August after months of holding shows in the WWE Performance Center, first with no fans and later with developmental talent creating a small "crowd" who could offer live reactions.
Beginning Dec. 11, the ThunderDome will be relocated to Tropicana Field in Tampa.
The ThunderDome allowed WWE to bring back the feeling of big arena events as it moved out of the much smaller WWE Performance Center and used piped-in crowd noise to create a sense of atmosphere to compliment the faces of fans on the LED boards surrounding the ring.
With COVID-19 rates increasing and it appearing unlikely large gatherings will be the standard moving forward, WWE needed to relocate the ThunderDome away from the Amway Center, which will soon begin hosting NBA games for the Orlando Magic in the upcoming season.
"The Tampa Bay Rays are excited to welcome WWE to Tropicana Field for this residency and shine a spotlight on the Tampa Bay area for WWE fans around the world," Tampa Bay Rays president Matt Silverman said in a WWE release on the move. "The ballpark will be transformed to host the spectacle of WWE ThunderDome, allowing fans to enjoy this wildly popular experience virtually."
With the Dec. 11 edition of SmackDown kicking off the ThunderDome's new "residency," the promotion will settle in ahead of the Dec. 20 TLC event on pay-per-view before heading into the kickoff to WrestleMania with January's Royal Rumble.