Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
Stratford’s roller derby league, which currently lacks playing time close to home, is asking the city for a permanent venue to grow and evolve with its expanding fan base.
The Festival City Rollergirls was started in 2011 out of growing interest from a group of women looking for an alternative recreational activity. Today the league consists of three teams: the full-contact Decapulettes as well as low contact and junior teams. Total players are about 80, and they range in age from nine to one woman who will soon turn 50.
“What started as a collective idea has now grown into an accomplished, renowned and evolving league,” Festival City Rollergirls co-founder, Rebekah Zinger, told the community services subcommittee on Feb. 13.
The league offers players of all ages who might not otherwise get involved in sports exercise and camaraderie, she added.
“Because it is such an inclusive sport, people who have never participated in sports are drawn to derby. Everyone who wants to be a part of the sport can find a place.”
Along with her presentation to subcommittee, whose members referred the group’s request to staff for investigation, Zinger delivered a petition supporting the request with about 330 signatures.
Roller derby players, the majority of whom are Stratford residents, currently travel for games at arenas and halls in Milverton, Mitchell, and St. Marys. Zinger said the arrangement is less than ideal, citing both a lack of space and in some cases unsafe track conditions.
Zinger said the ideal location would have approximately 6,000 square feet of playing surface, preferably polished concrete, although hardwood would also work. In addition to practice space year-round, the venue would be the Rollergirls’ home for league action between April and October.
According to Zinger, all efforts to find a suitable location in Stratford, including discussions with churches, service groups, and schools, have come up short.
This is an opportunity for the city to recognize roller derby for what it is – the fastest growing women’s sport in the world – Zinger said, noting the sport is even getting consideration for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics. The games themselves also have entertainment value; Zinger estimates about 500 people showed up to watch a game put on by the league at the Rotary Complex in 2012.
“The primary goal (at games) is to put on a show,” she added.
Roller skating in general is making a comeback and the city could use a venue to additionally hold public events, bringing in out-of-town guests and contributing to tourism and the local economy, she added.
Proceeds from Festival City Rollergirls events are donated to charity and the league also holds fundraisers. Zinger said a fashion show later this year will support the Stratford/Perth Hospice Project being undertaken by the Rotary Club of Stratford