Here comes roller derby to Buffalo.
The Queen City Roller Girls, based in North Tonawanda, will announce Tuesday it will play all of its games at Buffalo RiverWorks beginning in January.
“It’s very exciting for us to be a part of the development and revitalization of downtown and the waterfront,” said Jason Isla, Queen City’s board chairman.
For the organization, it’s also the first time a venue’s development comes with roller derby in mind, “which is a big thing for us,” Isla said.
RiverWorks is located on the site of the former GLF grain elevator at 358 Ganson St., near the General Mills plant.
The Queen City Roller Girls began in 2006. Bouts are now held at Rainbow Rink in North Tonawanda, which will continue to be used for practices, an expanded training program and a new, noncompetitive recreational league.
Five teams play under the organization’s banner – the Lake Effect Furies, Nickel City Knockouts, Devil Dollies, Suicidal Saucies and Alley Kats, plus the Queen City Junior Roller Girls.
Roller derby becomes the latest addition to RiverWorks, which in February hosted the LaBatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament and the Buffalo Curling Club Bonspiel. The curling club will also be based there beginning in the fall.
Plans call for the roller derby bouts to be inside a 60,000-square-foot indoor venue that includes bars and restaurants. Also planned are a brewery inside a former grain silo, along with an outdoor beach beer garden, volleyball courts, two seasonal ice rinks and docks for recreational boaters.
Isla said the move to Buffalo will increase exposure for the Queen City Roller Girls, with attendance capacity expected to increase from around 1,000 to between 1,500 to 2,000. The organization expects the downtown location to attract more people from Buffalo and the Southtowns, as well as allow more game dates besides Saturdays during the January to June home season.
The roller derby players are not paid. They pay dues of around $40 a month to be on the team. They also buy their own equipment and are responsible for their own insurance.
Isla said the move could mean the players will no longer have to pay dues.
The chief costs for the organization are for practices, travel and insurance.
“This is the first purpose-bulit roller derby track in the country,” RiverWorks co-owner Doug Swift said of the oval-shaped, flat track that will be built. The venue will offer multiple levels for watching the competitions, including a second-story mezzanine level that will wrap around part of the concrete track.
Swift said the track will be painted a different color. When roller derby isn’t being played, it can be used for anything.
“This brings in another major sporting event to downtown, especially over the winter months when the city has a more challenging time bringing things downtown. It’s complementary to all the things that are happening there.”