The Denver Roller Dolls have had a big year in 2013 -- the league's all-star Mile High Club won the Women's Flat Track Derby Association's Division 1 Playoffs earlier this month and is headed to the WFTDA Championships next month in Wisconsin as a top-seeded team -- but the Dolls' home team championships on October 12 will be the league's final bout at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, closing out a four-year contract with AEG Live.
Chuck Morris, CEO of AEG Live Rocky Mountains, says that despite the league's success and the explosive growth of roller derby in Colorado, it hasn't translated to increased attendance at the 1STBANK Center. The closest he came to selling out the venue was when the Denver Roller Dolls hosted the WFTDA Championships in 2011, and Morris says the numbers have been going down, not up, ever since.
"The bottom line is we gave it everything we could for four years, and the girls did, too," says Morris. "The only problem is we have a big hall, it's expensive to open, and there's so many leagues right now, all over the state -- there are leagues everywhere, from Fort Collins to Pueblo -- that it's even harder to fill one large arena now than it was three years ago because there's so much competition.
"I thought it would go the other way and we'd be selling the place out for every bout, but there's just too much competition now," he adds.
"AEG has been great to work with, and we've been really lucky to have their support over the last four years, but we will have a change of venue for next year and we'll be announcing it as soon as everything's finalized," confirms DRD spokeswoman Lexie White. "Right now we're looking into several very good options."
On September 10 the WFTDA welcomed fourteen new member leagues, including the Boulder County Bombers from Longmont. Other WFTDA leagues in Colorado include Denver's Rocky Mountain Rollergirls, Salida's Ark Valley High Rollers, Castle Rock's Castle Rock 'n' Rollers, Fort Collins' FoCoGirls Gone Derby, Colorado Springs' Pikes Peak Derby Dames, and the Pueblo Derby Devil Dolls.
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"All that growth has been huge for the sport of roller derby but just hasn't helped us fill our 6,000-seat hall," Morris says. "I'm still the biggest supporter of roller derby. I've loved it since I was ten years old, going to see bouts at the Brooklyn Armory, and I'd love to have some bouts at the 1STBANK Center in the future or maybe host the championships again some time, but for now it's just time for the girls to figure out a new paradigm for making it work in a smaller venue. I'd love to come back and try again in three or four years if it makes sense, but right now it's just too expensive for us to open the hall for the level of attendance we've been getting."
The Denver Roller Dolls have also run into problems this month with their practice facility, a North Denver warehouse known as The Glitterdome, after increased scrutiny of the Village Church, another group using a separate section of the warehouse, prompted a fire inspection that exposed problems with the building's occupancy permits. While the Village Church has left the building and ceased all operations, White says the Denver Roller Dolls have worked out a temporary arrangement to remain in the space, hiring off-duty firefighters to supervise practices until the league can sort out a more permanent arrangement with the landlord or find a more suitable facility.
Julie "Angela Death" Adams, a star jammer for the Mile High Club, says she sees a lot of opportunity in the changes ahead. "Roller derby is not really a mainstream sport and it just has not been the raging success that Chuck originally thought it would be when he first decided to bring us into the 1stBANK Center," she says. "Now we have a chance to reclaim things and bring back that DIY feel."
White echoes the sentiment. "We now have an opportunity to bring our bouts back to Denver for our core fans, and possibly grow our own facility," she says. "But first things first: we'd love to pack the place on October 12 to go out with a bang and kickstart our fundraising efforts for whatever comes next."
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Tickets for DRD's Home Team Championships start at $10. The Electrocuties and Shotgun Betties will be battling it out for 3rd and 4th place, while the Bad Apples and the Orange Crushers (new to the league this year) will be skating for the championship title.