#8 The Bakersfield Dome
Located at 22nd and V Street, Strelich Stadium , or The Bakersfield Dome as it is now known, has been the center of Bakersfield’s wrestling scene for nearly 80 years. In fact, it is the oldest active wrestling venue in Southern California. Nowhere else in the region can you currently watch wrestling in the same venue where wrestlers such as Danny McShain, Baron Leone, Gorgeous George, and Lou Thesz once battled.
Steve Strelich, who originally paid $40,000 for the building, opened the building on January 8, 1941 (some sites mistakenly list the date as January 7, 1941) with a star studded affair. The opening was hosted by comedic film star Slim Summerville and attended but more than a few Hollywood celebrities. Ed “Strangler” Lewis even took part in the opening as a guest referee. In the buildings first main event Jesse James defeated Whitey Whalberg in a two out of three falls match (two falls to none).
For the next 21 years Strelich would promote weekly wrestling at the venue, first on Wednesdays then later on Thursdays, with some of the sports biggest stars making regular appearances. On October 26, 1962 Strelich sold the building to Jules Strongbow, Bill Griffiths, and Jerry Hill for $100,000. Strelich would pass away in 1971.
Wrestling would continue to be held every Thursday at Strelich Stadium throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, often drawing sellout crowds to the 1,650 seat arena. In the mid-1970s the building faced its first brush with disappearing. Jules Strongbow passed away in May of 1975 and by 1976 Bill Griffiths and Jerry Hill were entertaining bids to buy the venue and turn it into a warehouse. Ramona Strongbow, widow of Jules Strongbow, was able to buy out the other two partners and keep the building in operation. After purchasing the building she would rename it after her late husband, changing the name to Strongbow Stadium.
The first event under the new Strongbow Stadium name was on December 11, 1976 and on that show Mil Mascaras defeated Super Scorpion in the main event in front of 1,200 fans. While wrestling would continue at the venue, the area around it started to go further downhill and outside the venue became a hangout for prostitutes and the building was frequently vandalized. The death of the territory system also meant the end of regular weekly wrestling. Ramona Strongbow passed away in 1993.
While WWF would run at the Bakersfield Convention Center, the emergence on independent wrestling in California in the 1990s would occasionally occupy Strongbow Stadium. XPW notably ran several shows there in 2000, with Sabu winning the XPW title in a tournament on April 29, 2000.
After Inocencio Madera purchased the building in the early 2000s, he renamed it yet again, to The Bakersfield Dome. In the mid-to late 2000s APW and later Vendetta Pro would regularly run at the venue. On November 2, 2008 TNA ran a show there as well, with AJ Styles defeating Christian Cage in the main event. In November 2012 it was announced the building would stop holding non-religious events. After a few years however, the building started hosting other events again, and in the last year has hosted promotions such as Knoxk Pro and various lucha libre shows. Northern California’s Best of the West promotion is scheduled to debut there in October.
Despite a few brushes with death, right now it looks like Southern California’s oldest active wrestling venue will be sticking around for awhile.