Business is booming for Kitsap roller derby

The second annual Wild West Showdown will feature 17 women’s roller derby squads this weekend at the Kitsap Pavilion that compete in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. - Courtesy photo
The second annual Wild West Showdown will feature 17 women’s roller derby squads this weekend at the Kitsap Pavilion that compete in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The second annual Wild West Showdown headlines the Kitsap Pavilion Friday through Sunday, with 17 women’s roller derby teams competing on three tracks. The squads are from across the country, including Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Chicago, jockeying for rankings in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.

Phillip “Phil the Pain” Whatley, the head coach of Bremerton’s Slaughter County Roller Vixens, said Tuesday that the roller derby bouts are important for Kitsap sports fans and businesses looking to cash in this weekend.

“This puts Kitsap on the map for roller derby,” said the coach in his fifth year.

Bruce Waterbury, a recreation specialist with Kitsap County Parks and Recreation, said last week that the 2010 inaugural Bremerton tournament brought in $725,000 to the city’s economy. He expects a turnout of 3,000 spectators for the 2011 tournament, which includes 240 volunteer workers and 15 vendors.

“The facility here is one of the best in the country right now for this type of event,” he added. “The Slaughter County Roller Vixens have put a lot of hard work to get this going, and it’s going to do a lot for the city.”

Last year’s Wild West Showdown drew 2,000 fans and grossed $20,000 for the Vixens club, said Danielle George, the head non-skating official and volunteer coordinator for the event. She said Tuesday that the sport is expanding and she sees a future for more roller derby bouts in Bremerton.

“I think more people are becoming aware of roller derby,” she said. “We’re able to show that roller derby is a viable sport that people are willing to spend time and money on to attend.”

George has her hands full for the showdown as she coordinates 150 referees from around the globe who qualify to officiate. She will also compete with other officials in a friendly bout that concludes the tournament Sunday.

Roller derbies are known for packing arenas in larger cities, which makes it special for smaller cities like Bremerton to draw large crowds, George said.

“I love that we’re not dependent on the big city and big venue,” she added. “Seattle has its own Rat City Rollergirls at the KeyArena, so to show you don’t need to be in a huge area to get more than 2,000 fans for roller derby shows we don’t have to be reliant on the surrounding area.”

All 17 teams expected at the Showdown include 20 skaters each and a coach, which Whatley said provides an economic boost to the area as hotels and restaurants fill with participants and fans. Bremerton art studio Fingers Duke will sponsor the Vixens.

Fans can expect to watch highly contested bouts at the Wild West Showdown, but the rivalries stay on the tracks. For the Vixens club and other roller derby clubs, the sport is about a common bond and reaching out to those less fortunate.

“The women have a sisterhood out there,” said Whatley, adding that his team has donated its earnings in past bouts to the Susan G. Komen foundation, Housing Hope and the Kitsap Humane Society. “We have our playful rivalries, but when the skates come off, we’re all in it together.”

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