Seating switch irks wrestlers

Chairs replace long-serving bleachers in All-Star Wrestling venue, erasing a piece of Cloverdale history, promoter laments.

Gangrel

The promoter of a Friday night institution – All-Star Wrestling at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds – is crying the blues over a decision to remove the bleachers that have provided a ringside view to patrons for years.

The bleachers that have made the Alice McKay building a unique local venue for the monthly live sporting events have been replaced with banquet hall-style floor-level seating for the shows, erasing another piece of Cloverdale history.

“The bleachers have been in the venue since 1952,” says Mark Vellios, a promoter with All-Star Wrestling and long-time professional wrestler (Gorgeous Michelle Starr), who is saddened by the removal.

With Friday’s wrestling event – Fright Night 2 starring Jinder Mahal and Gangrel on Oct. 24 – just hours away, Vellios is wondering how the change will impact the experience for patrons.

“The removal of the bleachers changes the whole atmosphere of the venue,” he said. “It goes from looking like an arena to just another banquet hall-type venue.”

It may also impact the organization’s bottom line, as capacity shrinks from nearly 700 seats to approximately 500.

“We are not sure of that number yet as we have never set up only chairs in the venue,” he told The Reporter last week. “The sight lines also change because now the elevated seating will be gone. You will be looking over people’s heads and shoulders.”

He hasn’t been able to determine how the seating change will impact Cloverdale ticket sales for the professional wrestling matches.

“We have not crossed that bridge yet,” he said. “We have an event Oct. 24 and we will see, as we have gone from a three price system to a two price festival season system.”

The organization had been warned of the removal a few months ago, but were not given a firm date, he said.

“It is just sad to see part of the venue’s uniqueness being torn out,” he said. “I’d love to see new bleachers being installed.”

The venue is owned by the City of Surrey and is part of the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

Mike MacSorley, general manager of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association said the bleachers were simply too old and were removed out of safety concerns.

Repairs would have been too expensive, and there are no plans to install new bleachers, he said, adding they were only used about 12 times a year.

Agriplex undergoing renos

Meanwhile, the Agriplex on the fairgrounds – which does have  bleachers – is undergoing renovations that will turn the 1,500-seat venue into a more versatile facility, boosting capacity to as much as 3,000, depending on the type of event and seating.

The dirt floors have been replaced with concrete, and new lighting is being installed this week.

The renovations will help determine if the fairgrounds will draw conventions and other larger events.

“Hopefully it’s a precursor to a convention centre,” he said. “We can do everything we used to,” MacSorley added, explaining that the dirt from the old dirt floor has been saved, and can be moved back in for agricultural events.

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