Philadelphia’s 2300 Arena was in a tough position, so tough that CEO Roger Artigiani didn’t know if it would make it through the pandemic.
Boxing and MMA shows were open to the public in the 1,300-seat arena, but hosting limited crowds in that setting wasn’t like 25% at Citizens Bank Park or the Wells Fargo Center.
A GoFundMe page was created in November for the venue formerly known as the ECW Arena in the 1990s. Thanks to donations and the full reopening of arenas, things are trending in the right direction.
“We were fortunate we had some of our best clients on the go, ready to start doing their shows,” Artigiani said. “We filled up our summer shows pretty quick.”
A weekend boxing doubleheader is scheduled on Friday and Saturday at 2300 Arena, featuring Philly native Nahir “Woo” Albright versus Jeremy Hill to start the weekend. Both Friday and Saturday cards begin at 6 p.m.
Saturday’s card, hosted by RDR Promotions, features undefeated boxers Mark Dawson and Ivan Pandzic. A showdown between hometown prospects Damon Allen and Steven Ortiz was originally scheduled, but an Ortiz injury canceled the contest.
“That’s just the tip of what we’re doing,” Artigiani said. “We have a lot of stuff where people will be surprised at what we’re doing.”
At one point during the pandemic, Artigiani had to lay off the arena’s staff. Now that 2300 is booked through the summer, the staff is back and crowds of 80-90% are expected on both days of the boxing event.
Artigiani has emphasized taking care of all contracted workers while they ensure the arena meets health and safety protocols. For example, if bartenders aren’t tipped as expected, they’re still paid as if they were.
“If there’s a bad night, we’ll take it on the chin because we know we’re going to have a good night coming down the road,” Artigiani said. “It keeps them happy, helps them pay their bills.”
Boxing cards, MMA events and wrestling shows are often hosted at 2300, but the goal is to become “like a mini-convention center,” Artigiani said.
Expect more concerts, Broadway shows and corporate parties during the fall. Part of that shift is adding new installments that will increase the attendance and experience.
“Roger has done a fabulous job with the lobby area and the bar he’s put in,” Joe Hand, president of Joe Hand Promotions said. “Come on, man, there’s nothing like that around the country.”
A sign of better days came last weekend when the arena hosted its first wrestling show since before the pandemic. Expectations are that 2300 Arena, which is located at 2300 S Swanson St., could be thriving again by the second quarter of 2022.
“As long as they don’t shut down again, we’re going to be back on top like we were before we got shut down,” Artigiani said.