What if….

…the Bay Area Derby Girls and dozens of other leagues moved into venues that served them and the spectators better?

Last night I was able to see the San Francisco team and the Berkeley squad skate it out…..as always within this wonderful league it was fast, hard, skillful and exciting.

Herbst Pavilion, a former docking building for ships located on San Francisco Bay, was the place….The building sold out before game time.  The crowd was great and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  I spoke to one lady who was completing her MFA program at the Arts school in the City and asked her if she skated.  She said no, but she loved Roller Derby and had first seen it as a high school student visiting in Hungary!

They had bleachers at one end that held about 600 people, maybe…..no seating on the sides (by far the best way to watch Derby), and chairs and just floor for the others.

Scoreboard hard to see, sound unintelligible to most, no focused lighting, but everyone seemed to be having a good time.

So what if they were in a place they should be, as Rat City, Chicago, Denver, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Minnesota (if I don’t list you, you will let me know) are.

If negotiated properly, the leagues can make a lot more money and make more fans happier……I really feel that with the proper arena the game could have been played before at least 4000 people.

I have helped before (right, Hyman Heaven?), and probably get to people that you can’t.  Between Roller Derby, BASS tickets and Ticketmaster, I have made a few contacts.

I am on facebook of course, my phone number is 707-935-7711.  I am looking at the phone….nothing is happening….oh wait, I better post this first.

6 comments on “What if….

  1. I understand what you mean about better facilities. My problem is with Junior Derby. We are at the mercy of rink owners that do not fully support us, they cancel and do not reschedule practices and bouts. At the same time they want a cut of our bout proceeds, while our parents volunteer to set up, breakdown and clean up their rinks. They complain that they are not making any money, while on their cheap skate nights, a large majority of the skaters are from our league. I could go on and on about how the Junior derby in our area is treated. But, the main point is that people need to realized that Junior Derby is the future of what It can all become. We have so many young ladies and younger that have a heart for this. We need all the help we can get to assist them in their quest.

  2. Jerry, I don’t know if we have enough population for that many fans in Taos, NM. Our league, Duke City Derby, gets a few 1000 folks in Albuquerque. And, we only play in the league championships down there this year. See we are like 100 miles from them. Our Taos fans love us and we have a pretty good venue for what we have going on now. It is affordable. Our problem is practice space. I have a dream and it is big, (why not?). That dream is to have a skate rink for derby practice for the team, Junior Derby and big enough to put on bout.
    Have you and would you be willing to work with a small town girl on some ideas of how we can find some funding to build such facility in our fantastic little town?

  3. this is a huge issue not only for derby, but for any startup, which is exactly what any derby league is. the trick is folks aren’t looking at if from either a performance or space management standpoint.

    bouts are shows. yes, they’re’ for the skaters, but fan’s aren’t going to show up unless there’s a show. practice space is just flat surface.

    here in the twin cities, both the north stars and mnrg have pretty slick facilities and practice arrangements, but the terrors just lost their home of a few seasons.

    imho the ideal facility is one that is a flexible production venue. e.g. a convention center, concert arena, or large gymnasium. each of them is ideally suited to fit in 3-8 nights in a year spread out on the odd friday or sat but doesn’t mean that you have to maintain a facility the other 350odd days it’s not hosting an event for 2 hours.

    they have the infrastructure in place, or available to provide sound, lighting and bleachers.

    the rub is that they may not be able to provide practice facilities, but again, that can be varied from “performance” location and, those venues may have other areas that can be used for practice.

    a warehouse with a decent floor is ideal, and depending on floor construction a landlord may be willing to let you pour a few yards of self leveling finish on it. practicing outside of 9-5 in a staging area of a warehouse may get you absurdly cheap rent as it’s dead space a business is paying for but not using then.

    @ann, don’t take this the wrong way, but you seem to be expecting to get tuesday night for free because you paid for wednesday. approach this from the business owners’s view, and from the view of “what facility do i need?”

    they need to make money to stay open, muchless make a living. they want to invest in future skaters, so it can make sense for them to take a minor loss to encourage new skaters, but it’s not an investment unless it will pay off in a useful time frame and amount.

    they probably have a lot more knowledge as to exactly how much they need to take in on facility fees per night to to be profitable, and have that balanced to reflect busier days and slower days. (the reasons’ bars have service nights on mondays is because it’s the slowest day and it brings in folks who have mon’s off)

    you need a flat chunk of floor, and some chairs in a reasonably climate controlled condition, ideally with a toilet or two. the rent on the ~6000 sq ft necessary for one wftda track in a warehouse starts under $2500 a year to over $18k, depending on your location in the usa, but that’s for 24/7 access. if you’re paying (as a league) $100 a night for one night a week all year you’re paying $5k already.

    can you have the kids practice from 4-6 when the venue may not be open but the kids are out of school? (normal school sports time?) the rink owner may be excited to have another prime block open and be willing to rent for cheaper at an underused time.

  4. We understand the need for a bottom line for the rink to survive and prosper. We try very hard to be flexible and roll with the punches. The rink we practice and bout at has been in financial struggles for a few years now. We attempt to help and advertise for them in the parades we join in and all the fliers and notices we put out. We are the ones sending info to the local schools and putting on the first haunted house. We are also the ones getting the info to the local newspapers. We do all of our own bout fliers and web site and Face Book events notifications. This is all in the interest of getting people and skaters there to promote both our derby league and their rink. I just wish that the hard work we do would be reciprocated in their commitment to us as a league, Having one day to notify skaters and parents of a practice cancellation is not good business. Also not having our bouts put on their calender , after repeated conversations leads us to feel a bit unappreciated and unsupported.
    As for a 4-6 pm practice time, all of our coaches work , asking them to come earlier is not an option. Many of our parents can also come only after work, we do car pool when needed but have girls coming for a long distance away.
    We have looked at other options for a practice facility and because of our rural location there are not many affordable places we could use.
    I do take umbrage at your comment that we are putting on a show. The young ladies on our Junior roller derby team are ATHLETES, and this is a sporting event not a show. These young ladies work their butts off to prepare for bouts , to compete , not to put on a show.

  5. @ann

    it sounds like you are doing many apt things, but that the rink owner may be a bit apathetic about the prospects of their business as a whole. their business may not be sustainable under their management, and they may be looking to you for free advertising, and when they don’t see enough income from that are falling back onto you for more cash. keep in mind i’m only hearing your side of things, so i could be wrong, but if this rink really is your only option, maybe you can look to your community to purchase the rink as a community center. hall rentals for weddings, coffee hours and cards for seniors, informal take-one-leave one library… and at least one anchor tenant – your league.

    are there elementary school gyms? what about farmer’s machine sheds? community centers? local college gyms? a closed airport with a hangar? a big parking lot and moving to a better weather season?

    your umbrage is exactly the underlying issue that jerry hinted at in his essay. at no point did i say or infer that they aren’t athletes. you seem to be having trouble (like much of derby) from separating the business/economic side of the sport from the participation in the sport. charging money to see something means you need to provide value, even if the income needed is only enough to cover the base cost of providing that something.

    case in point from what you’re telling me you as a league seem to be propping up a failing or poorly managed business and blaming them for your facilities difficulty. a well run business won’t blame their supplier for ongoing issues, they’ll find another supplier or make it themselves. understanding that managing a league is managing a business, which provides a product, is crucial to having it be sustainable.

    when i go to a concert, it is to be entertained by musicians, and awed by their skill. when i go to a sporting event, it is to be impressed by the speed, power and grace involved in seeing athletes compete. that said, i am still as an audience member paying to be presented with a product.

    even a non-profit league which “only” provides athletic and social bonding for the skaters is still providing a valued service.

    if there’s a secondary product of charging folks to watch, then that product needs to recoup something for the league either as a marketing investment in future skaters, or pay directly for itself, and that secondary product has to offer value to it’s customers. the customers paying for the bout have different expectations of value than the skaters participating do. a league needs to sell an appropriate and minimally compromised product to both markets.

    look at pro, college, and even high school sports. they all do things to add to the spectacle of the athlete, be it pep bands, score boards, half time shows, organs, giant sheets of paper to run through and lighting dimming if not robotic lights zooming everywhere. no one says they aren’t athletes, but it IS a show.

    if the parents just show up w.o fee like a summer soccer game, then no, it’s not a show, merely a special practice session, but it’s still an economic business decision that you as a league value that type of event, and to make it viable need to be paying a fair price for the use of the facility, and the rink honoring that contract, whether that price be advertising or cash.

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