Players look to finish new facility renovations, needs home game revenue to do it
By Casey Rafter
As she turned the corner, the player knelt and all of her body weight balled briefly into a compact object: She leapt up, and her skates left the varnished wood, cutting past one, two then three players.
With this tricky move, the jammer for Sacramento Roller Derby’s Bruin Trouble team earned an explosion of cheers from the crowd the moment her wheels touched down in Andy Morin Sports Complex.
Yet, after the applause leveled out on May 6 and the final score was announced — a loss for both teams playing that day — Sacramento Roller Derby’s players left the facility without a firm plan to play again in their hometown. The Folsom sports complex is one of a handful of spots the team has used as a temporary home until their as-yet unfinished warehouse can be completed.
Much like it was reported at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of viable local venues leaves SRD without revenue provided by hosting home games. The group’s sponsorship manager, Felicia “Shanita Crutch” Crutcher, said as new venues are booked, it’s a give and take with coordinators on both ends of the deal.
There’s currently a catch 22 when it comes to roller derby having a place to host home games and the funds needed to have a rink of the players’ own. With construction on the renovation already underway in fits and starts, Crutcher said their new warehouse in the River District may be completed in the next six months.
“Because of the nature of construction, you can’t really say, “This is the date!” Crutcher admitted. “The internal goal is to have it done this year. Things happen, but that’s what we’re shooting for.”
SRD’s Executive director Amanda “LOLz Lemon” Dunham echoed the same disappointing news: until their renovations are complete, the teams will get most of their games on the road.
“There are no venues here,” Dunham observed. “The community centers here are really small.”
This year’s goal on the Big Day of Giving was to raise funds towards a $16,000 wheelchair lift which will be built at the team’s new facility. As of May 11, the team received over $15,500 in donations towards their goal.
“We have this great plan for this huge, business front style entryway instead of the warehouse roll-up, like you’re going to a rave in the 90s,” Crutcher laughed. “We want a legitimate business front. There’s going to be steps up, but we want to make sure that everyone can access.”
The installation is part of renovations at SRD’s future home: a 26,000-square-foot training facility where, according to marketing coordinator Christina “Jessamine KillaWatts” Watts, derby players will train, and games and tournaments will be hosted. It will also give the organization’s junior and adult programs chance to grow.
Ahead of the May 6 game, Crutcher expressed apprehension about the Folsom venue’s viability as a place for future matches. Because the court at the sports complex is built for basketball, Crutch and Watts said that league regulations present a sticky situation: what kind of tape can be applied to a basketball court that will keep rope-barriers in place on the ground while not affecting the playability of the court beyond Saturday’s game?
“This is our pilot run with this complex right now,” Watts said before the match. “And if it does well, then we would possibly go ahead and schedule more home games when that time comes around. If this is a positive thing, then we will go ahead and schedule home team games in the fall.”
The cost for Sacramento Roller Derby to rent those basketball courts for its May 6 matches was less than $100 per hour. The plan is currently to return to the Folsom spot, though not any sooner than fall 2023.
“It was incredibly affordable,” Crutcher said. “There are rumors among coaches that we will be having home-team teams and we’ll be playing each other just to be able to be out in the public and introduce people to roller derby.”
But the skaters won’t have to wait months to lace up and battle. Crutcher noted that the Maul Stars will play an away game in Arizona in June, with details to be released via the team’s social media. In the meantime, priorities involving the warehouse’s completion consume most of Sacramento Roller Derby’s time, budget and attention.
“That’s as far as we’ve planned this year,” Crutcher acknowledged. “The board is working on getting the warehouse finished. All of our contractors have put in a bid, so the next time we meet, which is later this month, we’ll be voting on which contractor to hire to get the warehouse finished.”