Roller Girls gain cult following

March 24, 2008
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rollergirlsThe Naptown Roller Girls are proving so popular, the locally-based team is looking for a bigger venue. In only its second season playing at the State Fairgrounds’ Toyota Blue Ribbon Pavilion, the team’s following has outgrown the 4,000-seat facility. The team’s March 22 game against the Cincinnati Roller Girls was the team’s second consecutive sell out. Team leaders are talking with Fairgrounds officials about finding a bigger venue for the Roller Girls’ third season.

The team’s Feb. 9 sell out drew almost 4,500 fans for a standing room only crowd. The crowd was so big, team officials had to cap ticket sales for subsequent games. Tickets—which sell for $10 in advance and $15 on game day—for the team’s April 19 home game are already selling fast, team officials said. The other remaining home games are May 17 and June 14.

Ticket buyers are warned that the crowds can become exceptionally loud, and that children afraid of loud noises should stay home. Despite the loud atmosphere, team officials said the environment is family friendly. But the first two rows are not for the faint-of-heart. Players occasionally careen off the track and into the crowd.

By all accounts the Naptown Roller Girls are a rare success story of a start-up team in a start-up league. The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association was founded in 2004 by women who love to skate and yearn to compete. The Roller Girls were started with a small budget and little marketing. While the Naptown team has advertised in Nuvo, the fan following has grown largely through word of mouth. The visual display of girls rolling at high speeds and throwing body blocks into one another has been a camera-ready attraction that several local television stations couldn’t resist. The fervor over the team—composed of players using stage names such as Lilly Whip, Joan of Dark, Jane Ire, Shadi Lane and 4 Leaf Cleaver—has grown dramatically from its inaugural season.

In a city where indoor and outdoor men’s and women’s soccer teams have failed, ice hockey has struggled to gain a foothold and even the WNBA Indiana Fever—backed by the powerful marketing engine of Pacers Sports & Entertainment—have fought hard to attract fans locally, why have these unorthodox Roller Girls been such a hit?
  • These girls are hands down the most exciting ticket in town, and they do it for the love of the sport. Smart, powerful women who contribute to Indianapolis both on and off the court. It seems the Roller Girls have filled a void left by the turbulent Pacers. I've been offered multiple free tickets to see the Pacers this year, went to one and you could hear a pin drop. When you go to Roller Derby, you sometimes can't hear yourself think - but in a good way.
  • 100% fun and a great opportunity to enjoy a sport that isn't full of ego and over-paid thugs (no indeed, these thugs do it only for the love of the sport!). There is something wonderful about watching athletes that don't have to get paid millions of dollars to get out on the court or field and play.

    My friends and I were there at the start and we continue to spread the word. I take my eight year old daughter when I can and she loves screaming for our jammer to be the LEEEEAD JAMMER!

    It's an exciting mix of feminism, punk rock, muscle, hootspah and moxie!
  • Roller Derby in Indianapolis solidly skates that coveted line between cool and successful. It has the X factor that cannot be explained, fabricated or implied. In other words, you either have it or you don’t. If you go to a bout, you can sit in the bleachers with a family of screaming kids in front of you, their cheering grandparents beside you, the owner of a tattoo parlor and his biker buddies behind you and some visiting Purdue students to the other side. The appeal has no demographic barrier and I feel that is because the admiration of good competition in a sports-lovin’ town like Indy is universal. They are the most exciting team in town marketing nothing more than hardcore grit and determination. No flashy marketing campaign, just grass roots blood, sweat and wheels (there’s no crying in derby!)
    That fire coupled with fair ticket and merchandise prices makes Roller Derby is a sport anyone can afford to enjoy. In response to your question, I feel this is why Naptown is a booming success.
    Go Naptown!
  • I think this question should be posed in Lou Henry's blog.
  • Wide spread demographics from grandparents to rock n rollers ... and a fervent fan following. Calling all corporate sponsors!
  • Joyce,

    Are you saying that Naptown Roller Girls are entertainment rather than sport?

    If so, I'm wondering if you've seen them in action. While the Naptown competitions are, indeed, very entertaining, I think a sports column is where they belong. While old school roller derby had the same rep at Pro Wrestling (staged fakery), what's happening at the Fairgrounds is true athletic competition--even with the fun nicknames.

    Now, if we're talking about halftime shows, that's a different matter.

    Lou Harry

    Visit Lou Harry's A&E at
  • I went to my first Naptown Roller Girls derby last weekend. It was awesome. I'm totally hooked and can't wait for the next one.

    By the way, they have the best promotional graphic design of any sports team in the city. Our roller derby team's name Tornado Sirens is the most clever and appropriate in the city. (IUPUI Jaguars?) They're schooling the conservative big-boys in many areas.
  • The Naptown Roller Girls have tapped into a vein of something rarely seen in sports these days--commitment. Commitment to the sport of roller derby. Commitment to their fans. And commitment to their physical well being. As role models, they continually speak to a singular (and often nostalgic) truth: with lots of hard work and a little determination, you can achieve anything. These ladies own and control everything about the league, from uniforms to actually unfolding those chairs at the venue before the bout. In a world where we pay many male players to simply show up for a game, these women work out three times a week and put in countless hours of promotion and setup time even before they lace up their skates. And, in the end, they don't even get paid for the physical toll they put themselves through. Money and ego don't even enter the equation. For once, you get to see somebody play a sport just sheer fun of it. It's a refreshing pace for a sports driven city like Indy.

    As for the community, I've never seen as wide a demographic at any other sporting event. Once a month, all of these people who would not otherwise mingle in any other setting, come together to support these women. For a brief few hours, everybody is on the same page. And in what other sport could you show up at a fan event held in some small watering hole and find yourself elbow to elbow with some of the players? They have acknowledged they need the fans as much as we need them. They have become friends. They have become family. It's simply amazing what being honest, dedicated, and accessible will get you these days. Other sports leagues ought to try it.

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  1. I am so impressed that the smoking ban FAILED in Kokomo! I might just move to your Awesome city!

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