Space: The Final Derby Dames Frontier

June 6th, 2014 | 0 comments

10,000 square feet is a lot of space. Picture the gym in your elementary school: most likely that is not big enough. How about a tennis court or an indoor soccer field? Nope and nope. Think about your high school or college gym, especially if there were multiple basketball courts. It’s possible that’s big enough. One of the first questions people ask about our team is, “Where do you practice?” And the answer is… I can’t tell you. Actually, it’s a warehouse, but it’s not open to the public and it’s about to be demolished. And sometimes we suck water off the floor with a shop vac after it rains. We’ve had some creative solutions over the years.

Our space history

Our very first practice was at the National Guard Armory in November 2007. We have skated in a variety of places—some of them not quite the right size or not completely safe. We have skated a paved local trail or run steps at UVA instead of skating on a track. Once we had a larger space that was generously shared by The Event Company, we started to improve into the serious, competitive team we are today. They worked around us and stored carpets in the center of the track. We put corks on the nails in the outside wall and blocked the sharp steel shelving with couches. It was a skinny track with no ref lane, so we learned derby, but we had much farther to go.

When we found our current warehouse for an amazing deal, our skills went up another notch as a team, but our days there are numbered. Some outdoor track options could be a possibility in the near future, but an indoor space would be ideal because of concerns about weather and time slots. We email and call places every day, and we appreciate leads that people can share. It’s a long process, but we have hope: derby players are a determined bunch.

What do we need, exactly?

  • Size and dimensions: space with limited columns to accommodate a track that is about 100 feet long by about 75 feet wide (about 10,000 square feet total). The dimensions are often a challenge, because a very long, narrow space won’t work. Space for spectators is ideal but not essential—a smaller space (even 7,500 in the right dimensions) could work for practices but not games.
  • Long-term lease options (6 mos+) with at least a 60-day notice to vacate
  • Affordability (we’re an all-volunteer, non-profit organization)

Are you picturing the banked track from long-ago derby on Saturday mornings or even the movie Whip-It? Good news! Some teams still do skate on a banked track, but we are a part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) and we skate on a flat track. Teams skate on lots of floor surfaces—concrete, plastic sport court, rubber, wood—we can make different situations work, but what matters most is that it’s smooth and flat. Brushed concrete is rough on our gear, and bumps add some challenge, but our current track has some small bumps and we make it work.

While our very own space would be amazing, the good news is that we are flexible, and sharing space would definitely work. We aim for at least 12 hours of practice time weekly for the league, but with a very large space, two of our teams could practice simultaneously. Often our practices are in evening or weekend hours, which means that we should share with a company that needs the space during business hours. Our league is made up of seasoned All-Stars, a B-team called the Belmont Bruisers, brand new “Fresh Meat” skaters, and refs and volunteers who help our bouts and practices go smoothly. We know of leagues that skate in high school or community college gyms, National Guard armories, skating rinks, warehouses, and multi-sport sportsplexes.


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Roller Derby Track

What might be holding you back?

Misunderstanding about what derby is: It’s not an act—it is a real sport. We don’t throw elbows or fists (those would earn penalties). There are over 1200 teams in the world today; millions of people are involved in the sport now. Come watch our double header bout against Charlotte on Saturday, June 7th or against Hard Knox on Saturday July 12th, and see for yourself.

Worry about surfaces: Some facilities fear that our wheels or pads will scratch the floor. Rest assured that we have not had this problem and will gladly work with places in case we need to add cloth to our pads for an added level of protection.

Lack of funds: Maybe you or your company just doesn’t have the funds to invest in a space. We feel your pain! But together we are stronger. We are creative thinkers and problem solvers and want to work together with you and your organization to find a solution (Reading this in a hurry? Scroll to “Where Can I Learn More?”).

Fears about liability: As I write this I can see my crutches and the air cast on my ankle, which I broke a few weeks ago. Injuries happen occasionally. However, we require every single skater to wear safety equipment, have individual insurance coverage, and sign a liability form. We take this VERY seriously. We have several members of the team who are trained in first aid and CPR who can provide immediate attention if necessary.

Why should you help?

Help us represent Charlottesville on a national stage: Did you know that Charlottesville is currently ranked 94 of 234 WFTDA member leagues? As a point of comparison, the top 150 teams are ranked, and in 2012, our team was not yet ranked. We are ranked 48th on Flat Track Stats, which is generally considered a better predictive tool. We are on an exciting upswing ( rankings/wftda); we compete successfully with teams from much larger cities; we will go far with the right space.

Support an all-volunteer organization: Officers. Coaches. Committee heads. Trainers. Volunteers. Skaters. Refs. None of these people are paid. We pay dues, and we have very limited funds. We travel to places like Cape Fear, NC, and the Philadelphia area to play teams at our current level. We work to help the community as well, by partnering with local charities to help them raise funds at each of our bouts.

Have fun: Have you been to a bout or seen us at an event? We not only know how to skate, we know how to have fun. Roller derby attracts strong, interesting, talented, dedicated people. More on this in a moment…

Reach our fans: So many amazing fans. So many programs in their hands and space on the wall for your ads to reach them right in the eyeballs (or ears, if mentioned by our lovely announcers). A sportsplex in Greensboro was funded by the city in part because of the revenue that hosting tournaments and games (roller derby among them) brings to the town.

Where can I learn more?

I thought you might ask that, and guess what? We are having a party. A networking party. Thursday, July 17, 6-7 PM, at Main Street Arena. If you own a space, are considering being a part of an effort (financial or time) to fund a space, or are part of an organization that would like to share a space with similar dimensions, then we want to meet you. We will have appetizers and the Main Street Arena bar will be open! Come out after work and bring your ideas. Stay to watch our practice after the meeting. We will see you there! Email us at if you are interested in attending!

Post by: Honey Nut Fury-Os

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