Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Tuscaloosa's Druid City Dames Are Bringing Back the Flat Track

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Tuscaloosa's Druid City Dames Are Bringing Back the Flat Track

Article excerpt

There's a new team in town ready to show exactly what it's made of: The Druid City Dames, Tuscaloosa's first roller derby team, blends a mix of sugar, spice and seriously strong women.

Following the 21st century resurgence of the sport, roller derby teams are spread throughout the state: Birmingham's Tragic City Rollers; Huntsville's Dixie Derby Girls and Rocket City Rebels; Mobile's Derby Darlings; Dothan's Circle City Chaos; Montgomery's Montgomery Roller Derby (formerly River Region Rollers), among others, some of them now on hiatus. But before formation of the Druid City Dames, Tuscaloosa was missing out.

After commuting for a year and a half to Birmingham to compete with Tragic City Rollers, Megan Gunter decided to try to create something local. Much of the recent years' growth of roller derby is attributed to the speed with which social media propagates pop- culture, so she created a Facebook page in June, thinking it would be the easiest and most effective way to spread the word.

"The page instantly went viral, receiving over 100 likes on the first day," Gunter said. "I was not expecting that at all."

Today, the page has more than 1,170 likes, and the Dames are more anxious than ever to get out and show what they've been practicing for months, following evaluation meetings at Druid City Brewing to determine interest.

In order for the Dames to qualify as a league for competition, they must pass a total of 68 skills tests, regulated by the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, the largest governing body for roller derby, with 308 full member leagues, and 99 apprentice leagues worldwide.

One major block in the way of the Dames is a lack of venue. For the past few months, the YMCA let the Dames use its indoor basketball courts, but meetings were cut to once a week since basketball season began. The Dames now fear that they will soon have to resort to skating in empty parking lots, or worse, completely shut down the team, unless they can find a venue.

"We have all this momentum, and for us to get shut down would be terrible," Gunter said.

Princess Nash, who is on the venue committee, has been searching for months now, but has yet to find a covered space with a flat surface at least 108 by 75 feet, the requirement for a setup with 10- foot safety lanes outside the track.

"The most challenging skill to pass is skating around the track 27 times in 5 minutes," Dames member Julianne Davenport said. "This requires a lot of practice and time, so without the proper venue, it will be almost impossible for the women to complete their skills and qualify as a team."

While the search goes on, the Dames continue weekly practices, focusing on endurance, speed skating, blocking, jamming and most importantly, safety.

"Since this is a full- contact sport, safety is our main concern," Gunter said. …

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