Last night was something I never thought I would see: Roller Derby back at the classic Armory building in San Francisco.
In 1958 I started my Derby promotional career here. Banked track skating five days a week, with an occasional break for National Guard training. The building dark and grimy and dirty, and a theoretically wood floor that was almost black with the result of equipment stored, marching men since 1914 when the building – based upon a Moorish castle design – had opened.
I soon realized that skating 5 games a week in one location not easily accessible to the great population of the Bay Area was not going to be practical, so we worked on redesigning the banked track. It originally took several days to erect, but by cutting the height of the dexy steel, the length of the track and other shortcuts by our construction crew, it now could be set up in four hours or less and dismantled in three. (Eventually, the setup time could be reduced, as well as the tear down). And we started scheduling “one-nighters throughout Northern California, so five or six games per week would all be in different cities.
And of course this served the purpose of allowing us to schedule throughout the country, playing one night in Boston, New Haven, Madison Square Garden, etc. In fact, we often played the Garden at 1 PM in the afternoon over the ice, with Rangers hockey scheduled at 7 PM.
So we abandoned the armory and my only connection was my seeing it from the freeway.
Several years ago it was declared surplus, and a company bought it that upset the neighbors initially, but it has turned out to be of benefit to the Mission district where it is located. For those of you who watch fetish porn, chances are what you are seeing (I personally don’t know, of course) is by Kink.com, who have made a secluded part of the facility into their studios where weird things are filmed.
But they have renovated the outside of the building, and what I saw last night really amazed me. A beautifully restored natural arena, with wooden flooring you could eat off of (no, I didn’t), and the first event for community usage was BAD girls Derby.
https://scontent-b-sjc.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/1374139_10202557902412551_824937920_n.jpg (click to link….last night at the Armory)
Bleacher and floor seating easily accommodated the sold out 2000 or so people on hand, although I think they could add more bleachers on the side in the future if they come back. And this attendance in spite of virtually no parking around the facility, and a BART (subway) strike that really restricted people from out of the city a chance to attend.
The game against Sacred City was excellent, and although BAD won, it was a great hard-skated contest all along the way. It served as a great tune up for the upcoming championships, where they are the #2 seed after Gotham.
And actually it was two of my home teams competing; I am an hour from San Francisco, and about one and a half from Sacramento, so have followed both at their home bases.
I sat with a great couple from British Columbia: she skates, he coaches, who had scheduled their honeymoon to be in San Francisco for this game, and boy did they (and the great crowd on hand) enjoy it.
It would be great if BAD could schedule future events here; it is ideal for Derby, and the crowd of knowing fans helped to make the evening a huge success. And I saw so many of my friends.
It is amazing to have these events a half century apart be so different, so same, and so connected. Thank you, BAD!