Is Derby in the right size venue (or too big or too small)?

I spoke to a league official from Iowa last week, and the call really disturbed me.  They played in one of Iowa’s larger cities  that had a new large arena.  And the cost was outrageous!  That and the 80% (yes) service charge on the ticket price was a killer……I won’t tell you the name of the ticket company as I used to work there…….So the members of the league were forced to each kick up extra money to make up the deficit.


Last year I wrote about checking up on a larger arena if you were ready to make the jump.  This is about finding the right size (and not just for cost) and the most economical.

Most of you know every venue and rink in your area you can play in.  Hopefully you have checked out venue finder at (the most amazing ticketing company ever, and I have worked or consulted for a half dozen….more on that in a future post), but I am going to let you in on a 50-year-old secret.

In the same years that we were skating at the largest arenas (Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden, Montreal Forum, Oracle Arena in Oakland, and every major venue you could name), we booked dates at colleges (from Notre Dame to University of New Hampshire to Southern Illinois University and more), and at dozens of high schools throughout the country.  High schools?  you would be amazed.

The perfect sized gym was 3,000 and over.  And are you aware that there are 18 gyms in the US that are 7000 seats and up? And the largest is in Newcastle, Indiana with a capacity of 9225 – more on them later.

And how to you get into these venues?  We could always find a PTA or booster or support organization who wanted extra funds to maintain the facility.  We paid as little as $500 and split or gave them the concessions (and if it was not free, the parking).

Now these places are perfect:  great lighting, sound, bowl seating allowing the fans to focus on the action.  They are concerned about the floors, obviously, but of course you cover them.  And you are restricted to about 94 by 52 feet in most gyms (check it out) but you can do that, we could with the banked track.

We sold out the Newcastle gym several times, netting almost as much money as we did selling out Madison Square Garden!  How? Costs at Madison Square Garden were $25,000 rental plus about $19,000 in “reimbursables”, ie staffing, box office, police, track set up and tear down, and on and on.  And our promotion costs (about $300) were a lot less than we spent (about $10,000) in New York.

So get on it now!  You probably can use your own ticketing also, and Brown Paper tickets can do that (and of course I work for them).  Unbelievable 99 cent charge to customer plus 3  1/2 % charge which covers credit cards.  Luckily, BPT handles more Roller Derby than all other services together!  And that was before I joined them.  Bob Noxious has been doing such a great job as a “doer” for Brown Paper Tickets for Roller Derby.  He is a great source and not just for ticketing:

And now they are also a paperless ticketing company(have to change the name!).  The tickets can be sent to your mobile phone (and you can send tickets to others) and when you show up at the game, BPT  provides an app or scanners if needed and it is read,and they go right in.  And the bar code cannot be used for another entry.  And it reads reserved seats also.    The cost to you for this and all services from BPT:  NADA, NOTHING.  Even I can’t believe it.

And 5% of the service fee is donated to one of dozens of charities the buyer chooses…..this is such a green company and not just for profit that it is amazing.  If the other ticket companies were like this, you wouldn’t hear customers being so dissatisfied.(some venues with $100 tickets have a $30 service charge – maybe they would sell more tickets at $100.99)  No set up fee; you set it up yourself for any type of event – and great client service 24 hours a day. please check out and see the free services from promotion on they provide, including listing on all of their sites.

Now, I hope you all are aware of how many hundreds of venues I have “rented”.   Almost all will negotiate.  If you are playing in an arena already, they need you as much as you need them.  If it is a slow season or middle of the week, their overhead continues nevertheless.  So make them a lower offer (remember, they get the concessions and the parking income).

Check carefully the amount of ushers, police, etc they are requiring; these are often based on a crowd of total capacity, and obviously they want work for their employees, which is not your problem.   And do they have advertising boards inside or outside and run ads of upcoming events?  Make sure you are listed and they post your event in advance of your date.

There is so much more that I know.  Please use me as a resource.  Brown Paper Tickets encourages its “doers” to do that.

And you can imagine the thrill I had when the boosters brought Roller Derby into Niles Township High School in Skokie, Illinois, from which I had graduated 20 years before, and gave me a mounted football letter for my playing days!

21 comments on “Is Derby in the right size venue (or too big or too small)?

  1. One other idea: go to recreation departments or college and offer to proved Roller Derby as a recreation for the students, etc, in return for playing in their gym.

  2. “They are concerned about the floors, obviously, but of course you cover them. ”

    Any ideas how to do that? I know sport court rotates around as it’s skated on so I would expect it to scratch up any nice floor it was laid over.

    • cover the floor with canvas……or check with other leagues that have played in gyms……we put homesote on the floor (a fibreboard) and set the track over it)….never hurt one gym floor.

      • I’m not great with trying to match the standard flat track specs with the 4’x8′ sheet. Is it roughly 26 sheets or is it some very large number of sheets needing to be purchased at $25/sheet? Trying to gauge COST + Function.

    • A GREAT option that is no pursued often enough is Masonite. The Chicago Outfit have used it for years. Taking a rough account of prices and area, a friend and I felt about $1000, maybe less, would cover the track plus crash zone seating. I believe they apply two-sided tape to put it down. The new citrus-based “sticky” removers should clean any residue without discoloring the floor.

  3. Pingback: Is Derby in the right size venue (or too big or too small)? | Thehotflashseattle's Blog

  4. Tanya, I hope you can get a response here……are you talking about sport court or floor covering (canvas)? It would depend on how many times you will use it in the future and gate receipts, obviously.

    • FYI — It’s about 200 4×8 sheets to cover a derby sized track including the safety zone. This stack would be 8 feet high and super heavy (forklift needed). So now we’re talking storage, forklift rental, manual labor for assembly…which is not necessarily a BAD thing, just something to keep in mind. However, if you spend $2,000 per bout on the facility, with 10 bouts, you could have bought the flooring, had storage, and rented a forklift that whole season for the same $20,000 in year 1, year 2 of floor ownership you’d just pay storage and transporting….

      • Hey Tanya! Again, I defer to The Outfit. I’ll see if I can get specifics from them. They don’t have nearly that kind of operation to set-up and tear down. I’ve been there a few times, and the sheets are managed using multiple stacks and, I believe, homemade carts. They obviously have storage options at the facility. That’s likely the biggest issue for any flooring options.

  5. Hi Jerry. I’m reading online about your event at the Green Apple on Friday and was hoping you would do a live phone interview on KGO Radio Thursday evening to talk about the book and roller derby. We have a 8:06pm slot open. Please email me at Thank you so much!

  6. This is a great thread Jerry! I’ve always been of the belief that arenas are, usually, the wrong move even if you can afford them. Granted, some leagues fill smaller arenas, so it makes sense, especially if it puts them downtown. But, generally, I’ve announced dozens of times in large venues to what seemed like little or nobody. Even 2000 people in a 8000 seat venue feels empty. 2000 people in an auditorium or gym is a RUSH! Jerry is spot on.

    • Bob, who I hope all of you know is the wonderful “doer” for Brown Paper Tickets for the world of Roller Derby, I hope I am not confused here…..Do you mean they skate the games on masonite surface instead of a sport court? Ironically, masonite is (and was) the surface of the banked track…….

  7. I would love to get more info on Masonite vs. Sport court. We are looking to increase our bout schedule at FWDG and the venue we are normally at is not always available, but other locations would need to be protected and even a used court is so expensive!!! I appreciate any feedback!

  8. These are amazing ideas! Thank you so much for posting! Our team has looked into several venues in our area and have been turned downed because of the possibility of messing up the floor. We are less than a year old so a sport court is way over our budget but your options are totally do-able! The wheels of my derby brain are turning!
    Thanks Jerry!


  9. At Sacramento Saturday I was informed by a member of the Tahoe Derby Dames that in the winter they skate in a gym….they showed those in charge that the skates did not harm the floor. Barbara Dolan of Derby Lite fame also had her classes on gym floors….she said it is not the wheels but the wrist guards and kneed pads that mark the floor.

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