The Urbanite – Jon Liedtke – April 23, 2014
Roller derby league with nowhere to hang skates
Swimmers have the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre, the Windsor Spitfires and Express share the WFCU Centre and while bikers, joggers and walkers have over 100 km of mixed use trails, Windsor’s Border City Brawlers still don’t have a place to call home.
The Brawlers were formed by a group of women in 2010 as a non-profit to bring sustainable derby to the city. The league has been homeless since 2012 when they lost the ability to practice and play at the former armouries (future University of Windsor campus) and the Windsor Arena (future home of Catholic Central High School).
“We had some possibilities [at a permanent space], but they’re way out of our price range,” explained BCB spokesperson Kim Reaume.
With an average of 350 people attending each bout (a practice or game) paying $10 per ticket in advance or $12 at the door, the league is seeing about $3,500 generated per bout. While it’s not a huge number by any count, the Brawlers are getting roughly half the numbers that the Windsor Express sees on average.
Ontario Border City Brawlers and The Canadian Clubbers derby teams opened their season Saturday with a double header win and lost against Fergus Feims and Orangerville’s Pulp Affliction, respectively.
This year, the Brawlers plan on using Adie Knox arena for bouts because it had the most available dates, but the the set-up and teardown time required for practices and games is an issue.
“We have to lay down a track… it gets to be a pain…” said Reaume, explaining the entire process takes roughly 30 to 45 minutes. “If we have to do that for every practice, it eeks into our practice time, we’re paying by the hour…”
The league has been attending city council meetings to “make our presence known,” according to Reaume, who hopes that the city sees the merit of helping the Brawlers find a permanent home.
An ideal venue would be an arena or any flat space that is roughly 92 square metres. “We’ve looked into empty bingo halls, buildings…any vacant building in this city, we have looked into.”
The Brawlers have to rely on using temporary community properties that install ice during the winter which cuts into the season and revenue from ticket sales.
“If we have a permanent place, we can have bouts all year round, we can raise money all year round.”
Without a permanent venue, sponsors aren’t willing to commit because they don’t have assigned space to advertise. While community support has been overwhelming, Reaume explained not having a permanent home takes its toll on both the league and fans.
“We’re stuck [and] it’s really hard and frustrating for us. When we get bounced around, it’s hard for our fans, and us, I’m praying that someone comes through…”
Ward 7 city Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk sees the benefits of sports tourism and local sports teams and leagues.
“I think it’s wonderful in terms of attracting, bringing people here, getting them to see the city, to see how lovely the region is,” said Kusmierczyk. “One of the benefits that I see from the emphasis on sports tourism is that a lot of the people that might otherwise not have come to Windsor or maybe would not be on the radar, they have a reason to come here and hopefully that’s enough of a reason to get them to come back.”
Kusmierczyk said that the city wants to support community organizations directly through helping them hold events in community spaces and indirectly through “helping the Brawlers identify a potential partner in the city that they otherwise might not have thought about.”
“I do believe that there is a role for the city to play in terms of helping these community organizations get rooted here in the city,” he said.
Kusmierczyk added that while the onus. must be put on organizations to bring forward a viable business plan that he sup- ports local grassroots entrepreneurship.
“Anytime that there’s an opportunity for grassroots economic development, that’s something that I’m very much interested in looking at, but again the onus is on the organization to put forward an objective, realistic business plan,” he said. “Anytime you see organic grassroots organizations coming to life, the city should take a good long hard look at it.”
Jonathon Liedtke is the managing editor of The Urbanite, Windsor’s alternative newspaper. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.