Exactly one year ago this Saturday, May 21st, Champaign-Urbana’s premier roller derby league held their first bout at the Savoy Rec Center. Since then, the Twin City Derby Girls (TCDG) haven’t looked back. Ten bouts, four scrimmages, and thousands of dollars raised for charity later, the league has grown into six teams, with over 80 members and an impressive following.
This Saturday’s bout marks not only the first matchups of the season, but the first TCDG double-header and the first time a TCDG team officially battles another derby league on their home turf. The night begins at 6:00 p.m., when TCDG’s The ‘Paign take on the McClean County MissFits. A 2010 title rematch between the Damagin’ Dames and reigning champions Boneyard Bombshells follows at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are still available, and Saturday’s proceeds go to the UP Center of Champaign County.
Another first for the league is the change in venue ― last season, TCDG’s three bouts were held at the Savoy Rec Center ― Saturday’s doubleheader will occur at the UI Ice Arena.
This new venue has a few advantages, including its convenient location and a faster, more slippery track for quicker skating and bigger take-downs. There is also more room for fans (all three bouts last season sold out in minutes) with about four times the seating of the Savoy Rec Center, meaning a louder, more intense atmosphere for spectators, and more ticket and concession sales to raise funds for charity. The only drawback is that the Ice Arena is a dry venue, so alcohol may not be consumed or sold on the premises. TCDG promises great concessions and non-alcoholic beverages during the bouts, though, as well as an after-party for the over-21 crowd at Clark Bar, where fans can party with their favorite skaters.
TCDG’s Bitch E. Rich [pictured right] answered a few more questions about the season opener.
Smile Politely: This is TCDG’s first bout against a team outside the league on your home turf. How do you feel about inviting an extra-league team to bout?
Bitch E. Rich: Although this is our first time hosting another team in a full-fledged bout, we are no strangers to interleague play. We’ve had a couple teams visit us for scrimmages and our travel teams have played a number of interleague opponents. It’s really exciting to be able to invite other leagues to “our house” to play, though. It’s so much more fun to hit people you don’t know and it helps grow the local derby community.
SP: How have previous bouts helped shape this double-header that is in a new location and against an outside team?
B.E.R.: Bringing in outside leagues has always been a goal of ours. Last season, we were just starting to establish our league in the community and learning all we could about planning and organizing successful events. This year, we’re working toward completing our WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) Apprentice program that requires we host bouts against other leagues.
We wanted to do double-headers for a couple of reasons. First of all, it gives our fans a chance to see more derby! Bouts are only about an hour and a half long and our fans were disappointed when the bouts were over. Double-headers also allow all three of our home teams play on the same night, so that no team has to “sit out” a bout. It’s a win-win-win for everyone!
SP: How has the role of TCDG changed in Champaign-Urbana in the year since your first bout?
B.E.R.: It’s amazing how far we’ve come in such a short period of time. We have about 80 active members in our league now, countless sponsors, and a growing fan base. Last year, many people were surprised to learn that there’s even derby in C-U, and now most community members have at least heard of us. We’re hoping to continue to build the reputation of TCDG in C-U and in the larger derby community.
Personally, I think it’s really great any time someone wants to talk about derby or is interested in learning more about our league. It’s such a unique opportunity for women to compete in a growing sport, and it’s wonderful to have people recognize all the hard work we put into making derby a positive, empowering experience for women from all walks of life.
SP: Have there been any major changes to TCDG as a whole, or to the individual teams since your most recent home bout last Fall?
B.E.R.: Yes! This season, we have expanded our travel team [the Twin City Travelers] to include both an “A” and a “B” team and have added a number of travel dates to our schedule. We’ve also formed our first rookie team, the Vice Quads, who will have their first public bout in August, and have added some new coaches and referees to our staff. As far as the individual teams go, you’ll see some new faces playing for the ‘Paign, the Dames, and the Bombshells as well as many of your favorite players from last year.
SP: What are you looking forward to most about the new location and format of this bout? What should we look forward to?
B.E.R.: That’s easy ― more fans! … Fans who were with us last season will probably notice a more nuanced, athletic, and strategic game. Many of our skaters have been attending boot camps and other training opportunities to learn as much about the sport as possible. We’ve also had the opportunity to have some guest coaches in who have taught us quite a bit about derby strategy and game play. You’ll still see the fast jammers and hard-hitting blockers you’ve come to love, but you might also notice a few things you haven’t seen before.
SP: Wasn’t there another roller derby league in the area? What happened to them? Why don’t you bout with them?
B.E.R.: There was another derby league in the area, but they have since disbanded. We’ve been fortunate enough to have some of their skaters join TCDG and we’re now all one big happy derby family.
SP: What’s next for TCDG after Saturday?
B.E.R.: We have a pretty busy summer ahead: We will host our second double-header of the season on June 4. Then we’ll host our first ever travel team bout on June 18 against Demolition City, who are a full-fledged WFTDA team. After that, we host another home bout, then the travel team goes to Des Moines on July 25, and then we’ll host a home team bout, a travel team bout, and we’ll end our home season August 6 with a home team championship and the debut of the Vice Quads.
In between bouts, we’ll be participating in fundraisers and community events, likely scrimmaging some other leagues, and having a lot of fun along the way.
Obviously, TCDG is as busy as ever, and you will not want to miss this season opener!
Time: Saturday, May 21, 5:00–10:00 p.m.
Location: University of Illinois Ice Arena
406 E. Armory Ave
Doors: 5:00 p.m.
First bout: 6:00 p.m. ― The ‘Paign vs. McLean County MissFits
Second bout: 8:00 p.m. ― Damagin’ Dames vs. Boneyard Bombshells
General Admission: $12
Group Discount: $10 for groups of 10 or more
Free Admission for Children under the age of 10
After party at Clark Bar 10:00 p.m.–2:00 a.m.