Roller derby finally has a permanent home in Seattle.
Bitter Lake Community Center became the first community center in Seattle to get permanent roller derby lines painted on its gym floor. There are currently no facilities where derby can play besides in community centers, and no other community center in Seattle has painted derby lines.
There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony over the weekend. The space—though not very big—is enough. The derby community, happy and relieved, turned out in droves for the first official skate on the track.
Seattle roller derby, after losing facilities first in Southgate and then in Shoreline, had nowhere to practice or play save for Seattle community centers. Though they appreciated the space, it wasn't meant for roller derby; there weren't any lines on the floor to designate a derby track.
Potential Fresh Meat (PFM), a local recreational derby league, was fine with that. They would just tape their lines down. Except, the Magnuson Community Center was worried it would damage the floors. Couldn't derby just use cones? Despite PFM making their case (No, they couldn't use cones, they needed lines), it was determined that they could not use tape on the gym floors.
So, roller derby jumped skates first into the Seattle process.
"It was like 60 meetings within six months," Melissa Hall, a former Seattle City Council candidate and forever derby girl, told me.
What started as an issue about taping down lines became a call to action for getting permanent derby lines painted on community center gyms across the city.
"There was a tangible fear that derby would disappear," Hall told me.
According to PFM, derby in Seattle is 95 percent women and Seattle was the first city to start a junior league—the Seattle Derby Brats (SDB). Youth derby is growing exponentially; SDB has a deep waitlist and PFM just kickstarted their own junior league last month.
PFM say they lobbied committee after committee. They showed up to Seattle Park District Board meetings. They sent letters. They appealed to council members just so they could stay alive as a sport. Eventually, it worked.
"After reviewing the various sizes of our gyms, gathering input from the roller derby community," Seattle Parks and Recreation wrote in a statement, "we are proposing the painting of permanent roller derby lines at up to 17 sites across Seattle Parks & Recreation Community Centers over the next two years as floors are refinished on our typical cycle."
For now, derby has the opportunity to continue as a sport. The other gyms that will have permanent derby lines painted on them have yet to be decided. In the meantime, PFM will be allowed to use tape on the floors of the Magnuson Community Center.
"Having this kind of buy-in really matters," Hall said while hoisting up her young daughter who was wobbling unsteadily on pink skates. "This is how we secure roller derby for a long time. It's how I'm sure my baby will be able to play if she wants to."