A group passionate about the sport is hoping for a roller derby renaissance on Galveston Island.
The Steel Wheels Club, a nonprofit group and roller derby team, has their sights set on starting a new international roller derby company based in Galveston.
“We have the opportunity to bring it to the city and bring everybody together to learn the rules that are going to be played internationally,” Steel Wheels Club leader Norma Dolan, known in her roller derby circle as “Coach Chop,” said.
First, though, the club will have to build a skating facility on the island. The club is still in the early stages of the process with no specific location picked out yet.
“We just know that we want to have a facility that will be accommodating to the community,” Dolan said. “Anywhere on the island that is going to be available to us to build, or an existing building to build out, maybe.”
If and when the facility does get built, it will feature an interesting foundation. The Steel Wheels Club actually owns the banked track used in the movie that helped popularize the sport of roller derby — 1972’s “Kansas City Bomber” starring Raquel Welch.
After the movie studio sold the famed banked track to a roller derby club based in Austin, Dolan said it changed hands several times before the Steel Wheels Club bought it from a group based in Alvin on May 2 — Dolan and husband Peter’s 20th wedding anniversary.
“We got to stand on it for a little while, and then we had to hurry up and tear it down,” Norma Dolan said. “All the original wood is there, so the wood is a lot more solid. The track design comes from 1942, and it was used in the original roller derby games.”
The track has since been in storage in Santa Fe since the Steel Wheels Club acquired it, and it narrowly avoided the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey, Dolan said.
Aside from roller derby, Dolan said her club and the planned skating facility will promote all roller sports, such as skateboarding and inline skating, to people of all ages and skill levels.
“All the roller sports are perfect for the island,” Dolan said.
The big long-term goal for the Steel Wheels Club is for Galveston to host an official international roller derby competition.
“When we accomplish our goal of having a facility, we definitely will have international people coming, and training for the Olympics,” Dolan said.