February 22nd, 2024

Roller derby group seeks consideration in future rec developments

By Brendan Miller on December 13, 2023.

Joel McNally, chairman the Gas City Roller Derby Association and head coach of the women's adult team, presents to members of public services committee at city hall Monday.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER

bmiller@medicinehatnews.com

The Gas City Roller Derby Association is looking for a reliable facility and has asked members of the public services committee to consider them in any future recreation development.

During a presentation Monday to committee, members heard the association is planning for the future and seeking a suitable location to host indoor games and events. It is seeking a multi-purpose indoor space that can be shared with other sports such as floor hockey, volleyball and basketball.

An ideal space would be 150 feet by 150 feet, providing enough room for the roller track as well as seating for spectators.

“The main ask here is that you guys have us on the radar when you’re specifying the next recreation centre so that you think about when that design comes together,” said Joel McNally, chairman of the board and head coach of the women’s adult team.

The association is renting space inside the curling club facility to practise and host games against other teams in Alberta.

“It’s big enough for games, it’s very inexpensive and the manager there is a treat to deal with,” said McNally.

However the curling club is expecting to re-open next season once new ice machines and mats are installed.

“I understand the ask and it’s grateful that you’ve got this spot at the curling club at the moment. But the curlers would like to curl there, too. So I understand we have to look at some long-term planning,” said chair Coun. Ramona Robins.

Previously the roller derby association utilized space at the Cypress Centre field house. High interest rates have driven up rental prices for users of the field house forcing the club to look elsewhere.

The association has also worked with the YMCA downtown to hold practices, however the track needs to be reduced to a quarter size because of space limitations.

School gymnasiums are not an option for the association because of a joint agreement that prohibits roller skates on gym floors.

“I think this is just a holdover from back in the days when wheels used to be metal or wood. And those are obviously going to be hard, but our current wheels are about as hard on the barometer scale as a leather belt,” said McNally.

The Gas City Roller Derby Association has 35 registered players with ages ranging from six to 56. In July, three skaters from Medicine Hat competed in the World Cup in France.

The association boasts an inclusive space for anyone wanted to learn the sport.

“Our main kind of offering is that we are very inclusive,” said McNally. “We have a lending library of equipment so people who come and try it out don’t need to invest anything other than to bring their own, like, bike helmet or hockey helmet.

“And we’re especially safe for the LGBTQ community and transgender people.”

On Jan. 6, the association is hosting more than 200 skaters from across the province as well as B.C and Saskatchewan for Naughty vs. Nice. Seven games will be played throughout the day at the curling club with skaters to be teamed up by ability.

“That’s a great opportunity to see the game play,” said McNally. “This isn’t teams, this is like individual players. We group them by ability and the highest level game, it’s going to be like it’s world class.”

Roller derby is not currently recognized by Sports Canada therefore no grants are available to help grow the sport.

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