As the Kansas City Roller Warriors are gaining momentum in Kansas City, the teams consider moving to Independence
The mission statement for the Kansas City Roller Warriors roller derby organization states in part that the all-female organization “provide(s) an alternative recreational sport for women in the greater Kansas City area and unconventional sporting entertainment for audiences.”
Camaraderie, teamwork and friendship is the draw for most of the women of the area’s premier roller derby organization, said Jennifer Jensen, a member of the Roller Warriors’ board of directors and a skater.
“Roller derby really is a women’s empowering sport,” Jensen said before a recent Tuesday night practice at the Winwood Skate Center in North Kansas City. “Women can show we are independent and we are athletic. It’s not just for show anymore. Now, it’s a sport.”
The Roller Warriors were established in 2004 by Mandy Durham and Brooke Leavitt. The organization’s four teams – the Black-Eye Susans, Dreadnought Dorothys, The Knockouts and Victory Vixens – consist of roughly 20 players each, draped with protective helmets, mouth guards, wrist guards and knee and elbow pads.
Skaters skate on quad speed skates. Personality-driven monikers for each player are a must.
Jensen, a hairstylist in Kansas City, has an alias of ‘Foxy Roxy.’ She also helps handle public relations and advertising opportunities for the Roller Warriors.
“Roller Derby is a great way to take out extra aggression and have fun with some friends,” Jensen said.
Shawn Frazier of Independence is a mother of two daughters. During a break from practice, Frazier, now in her second season of roller derby, detailed her attraction to the sport and what pulled her in.
“A co-worker where I worked was trying out and she asked me to try out,” Frazier said. Frazier’s moniker is ‘Bomb Pop.’ “I have two daughters who I had taken to the skating rink and my friend saw that I was doing cross-overs and dipping around and she was like ‘oh my God, you can really skate.’ She asked me to tryout, I did and I fell in love.”
Roller Derby in Independence? Part one
It’s May 7, 2009, and the city of Independence is officially celebrating the topping off of the new Events Center at Interstates 70 and 470 in the Eastland Business Center.
Milling about are several members of the Roller Warriors organization, taking in the festivities of the day. Although the Roller Warriors practice in North Kansas City, their home matches are played at Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City.
Part fact-finding mission, part politicking and hob-knobbing with the key Events Center players, Jensen and others are treating the topping off ceremony as a chance to get the word out about their organization.
In fact, shortly after the celebration is over, members of the Roller Warriors express excitement about the possibility of exposing Eastern Jackson County to their extreme sport.
“We’ve been downtown for a long time,” Jensen says after signing the Events Center’s commemorative last beam.
The Roller Warriors are eyeing the possibility of moving their home matches to the new Events Center. “Independence is such a booming city. What we are thinking is (a possible move) would add another group of people as fans that don’t know about roller derby yet.”
Also on that sunny and breezy afternoon, an intense looking Roller Warrior, Kristin Ham of Independence, says a chance to compete in her hometown in a brand new facility would be ideal. Ham, nicknamed the Red Ripper, states on kcrollerwarriors.com that she “get(s) a great release from the stresses of life. I have such a positive self-image now, and I’m healthier.”
Roller Derby in Independence? Part two
Michael Young, general manager of the Events Center, said he has talked with representatives of the Roller Warriors about moving their home matches here. Young, previously assistant general manger of Kemper Arena, said he has a great working relationship with the organization.
A move by the Roller Warriors to Independence, Young said, would be welcomed with open arms.
“I would love to have the Roller Warriors booked to the Events Center,” Young said. “I think it’s the perfect fit for the community. Their events are family-oriented fun. That’s the type of event we are looking to book here at the Events Center.”
The Roller Warriors’ Web site states they average about 2,000 people at their home matches.
“They are very consistent and they do very well,” Young said.
Jensen said the two entities are still in negotiations, but re-iterated her statement from earlier this month that Independence potentially offers a new fan base.
The sport of Roller Derby was developed during the Great Depression and was very popular in the 1950s, but is perhaps best known for its hey-day during the 1970s. Roller Derby fell out of pop culture’s eye, but is making a comeback in the new millennium.
“If we moved out to Independence, we may get some of the (original) roller derby fans,” Jensen said.
The Roller Warriors compete on average at least once a month. They practice three times a week at Winwood.
The Roller Warriors formed its first All-star team – consisting of the best from all four teams – in winter 2005 and competed in its first interleague bouts in February 2006 at a tournament in Tucson, Ariz.
In February 2007 the Roller Warriors All-star team was ranked fifth in the western region upon entering the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s Western Regional Championships. They received a fourth place ranking after their regional win and were eligible to attend the WFTDA National Championships held in Austin, Texas, in September of that year.
After winning their first bout in the tournament against the number one seed from the east region, the Roller Warriors scored a second round victory as well.
Later, the Roller Warriors defeated their third opponent in a row and were crowned the 2007 WFTDA national champions.
Tonight, the organization rolls out the “House of 1000 Stalkers,” themed match at Municipal. Doors open at 6 p.m. and games start at 7 p.m. Tickets for adults are $16 and for kids ages 2-12 tickets are $8.