By mid-summer 2012 it had become apparent that a popular Long Beach sport would not be showing up that fall — roller derby, in an organized league capacity, would not play in the Queen Mary Dome or anywhere else in the city.
Less than a year later, the new Long Beach Derby Gals has risen from the ashes, and organizers said they hope to create a thriving roller derby culture with a lasting impact on the community.
At its height, Long Beach Roller Derby had four teams and a robust event calendar with a banked track housed in the Queen Mary Dome. Behind the scenes, though, the group had to open a Kickstarter account in order to pay back debt from its best year, and organizers from that group said the Queen Mary officials raised the price to rent out the dome.
Jaime Villa worked some with that management group — she also was a derby girl who went by the name Narlee. Shaun Elis helped put on Long Beach Roller Derby’s production values.
“I think the best way to put it is that the old management struggled managing the funds, and we grew faster than what we were prepared for,” Villa said.
Separating from the prior group in charge, Villa and Elis eventually decided that there still was a great interest for roller derby in Long Beach — from participants and fans alike.
“We both still felt like there was something left here,” she said. “We created a game plan and just started moving forward.”
Villa and Elis started their own production company and then founded the new Long Beach Derby Gals as a potential nonprofit entity, which Villa said she expects to be in place within the next month.
Long Beach Derby Gals will have its debut, Back From the Dead, at 7 p.m. Friday, March 22, at the Queen Mary Dome. Tickets will costs $16 for standing room, $19 for chairs and $24 for front row. There will be $56 Family 4 Packs and $34 will get you a ride on the Big Red Double Decker, which will park next to the track that night.
There will be two teams: Cyclone Racers and Breakwater Bombshells. It will showcase flat-track competition. The two teams will clash again on April 12 and May 24 for the inaugural season.
“We felt like we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel,” Villa said. “We just want a better business model with just about the same skaters and product. I think our production values are second to none in, at the least, California. We make it as professional as possible with matching uniforms and some campy entertainment — like fire dancers and good bands.”
Breakwater Bombshells captain and league media relations coordinator Maggie “Anita Nother” Murphy said she and many of her derby friends are thrilled to have a league back in Long Beach to participate in.
“I would say both teams are evenly skilled,” she said. “We have returning people from Long Beach, you will recognize, but there will be new blood in there as well.”
For the uninitiated, Long Beach Derby Gals will feature teams of 14 in two 30 minutes halves. Within those halves are smaller sections called jams that last about 2 minutes each. Each team sends out four blockers and one jammer, which is the person who must break through the blockers to score.
“It’s the only sport where you play offense and defense all at once,” Murphy said. “The flat track is much more strategic. You will see a lot of different wall formations and strategies of slowing and speeding up.
“You will be nice and close to the action. Someone sitting on the floor — a derby gal might fall right into your lap.”
Villa said the key for the fledgling new league is to keep the pace of growth under control and within budget — eventually allowing for more community-oriented programs to truly embody the work of a nonprofit. It should also be fun, she added.
“It’s hot girls in cute uniforms who beat the crap out of each other, and then we go have a beer afterwards together,” she said.
For more information, visit www.longbeachderbygals.com.