Roller Derby All Stars Influence Community Connections
The Albany All Stars Roller Derby league recently held a fundraiser at McGeary’s Irish Pub in downtown Albany. The proceeds were given to a member of the league who was the victim of a car theft.
The league was founded by five skaters in 2006 as the Capital Region's first all-female roller derby league. Over the years, the All Stars have featured as many as 80 members and have become an influential non-profit community service organization.
Erica Bloomfield, who skates under the name "Ace Defective," is the Public Relations chair for the All Stars. She explains how the league is organized and operated.
“There are five boards of directors—myself, I’m the PR Director. We have a finance director, bout director, coaching, and skater relations. Each of those chair people head up committees; each skater has to be on a committee, we’re a self-run organization so, those five chair people run the business, every girl has a job in this league and it’s the only way we can run,” Bloomfield said.
Bloomfield says the Public Relations committee primarily uses social media because it is the most cost- and time-effective. She says the league has experienced some issues spreading its name.
“It’s difficult to find advertising that is affordable and that can really get us out there. We’re struggling with that right now,” Bloomfield said.
Despite some hardships, the All Stars always lend a hand to other community businesses and organizations, such as Take Back the Night.
“We’ve worked closely the past two years with Take Back the Night which is an organization to end violence against women. We led a march around Albany to raise awareness for [Take Back the Night]. It’s a great organization; it takes place all over the world, these marches and rallies. We heard a lot of great speakers and we’re just very happy to be a part of Take Back the Night,” Bloomfield said.
The All Stars make money from merchandise and ticket sales during bouts, held at the Washington Armory, as well as monthly player dues. Sponsorships have helped both organizations involved. For example, nearly 100 people attended the bout that promoted Take Back the Night last winter. This makes it possible for the All Stars to maintain the league and give back to the community.
Julie, also known as "Ovary Obnoxious," is the league’s Finance Director. She says her primary goals involve budgeting, ticket sales, and keeping track of monthly player dues. Other members say Julie saved the All Stars this year.
“That’s our goal: to have money in the bank at the end of the season. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. We beg, borrow… Mostly beg for sponsors to give us money and we rely on our dues and things like that. We just pray on the first that we have money to pay the rent. This year’s been good, though, so, can’t complain,” Julie said.
Julie says time is the most costly thing about operating the league. She spends up to 12 hours a week on league business, outside of practice. Some of her routine activities include balancing the league checkbook, tracking player dues, selling tickets, and paying the rent for their home track. She says player dues make up the core of the $30,000 league budget.
“Our dues are $35, 12 months a year. $35 has been our dues for as long as I’ve been here… It’s a really good number even though our numbers fluctuate with how many girls we’ve had. $35 has always been a good number and we don’t see any reason to change that, at this point. Most of our league members, if not all of our members, have full-time day jobs and then they do this because they love it. They volunteer all of their time, they pay their dues. We have cash sponsors, which we appreciate; they just write us a check and then, in return, they might get merchandise or tickets to our bouts, things like that-- we have sponsors that trade goods,” Julie said.
Tess Collins, owner of McGeary's Irish Pub, has been a partner with the All Stars for several years. She says she has a close relationship with the skaters, even outside of business.
“I am not just a sponsor—a friend. I feel like we’ve all grown together. We help each other professionally and personally. I mean, if somebody on the team needs something or someone in the community has a crisis, we do fundraisers together and we help the community out together,” Collins said.
Collins recently held a fundraiser to support All Stars skater "Darla Vader," who was a victim of a car theft. Darla says that she lost an air conditioner, her bicycle, and all of her roller derby gear.
“It hit hard because it’s one of those things that it costs so much money. I mean your kneepads let alone cost $80 for decent kneepads. And if you think about it: you’re falling on your knees, we’re doing drills on our knees and skates go anywhere—even at the beginner level—skates go from $130 all the way up to $400-$500 for advanced skates. I had mid-level skates but, they were ones that I broke into. So, Ace decided to be the best friend that she was and get the league on board to do a raffle,” Darla said.
Darla, who is a member of the Public Relations committee, says she is committed to seeing what the league can do for the community. She says the type of connection the league has with McGeary's is one that it aims to establish across Albany.
“You know, if more people found about either derby or different types of recreational leagues and worked all together within the businesses, we could become a really great capital,” Darla said.
Finance director Julie says the Albany All Stars are already a cultural staple and community resource in Albany.
“I think we’re a big part of the Albany culture; we’re part of the sports, arts, entertainment. We’ve been here a long time and we’ll be here for years—forever. As long as the Armory will have us, we’ll be here. And if they won’t have us, somebody else will but, Albany All Stars isn’t going anywhere,” Julie said.
WAMC News intern Brandon J. Holmes is a University at Albany senior from Orange County, N.Y., graduating this winter with a degree in Journalism and Political Science.