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Rolling and growing in OC

The resurgence of roller derby occurred nearly eight years ago, but the sport and the Orange County Roller Girls league is still growing.

Since its inception in 2006, the Roller Girls dreamed of finding a track they could call home. Now, the Huntington Beach-based nonprofit's dream has become a reality. The league is leasing a new building in Santa Ana that will house their new banked track.

The Roller Girls recently signed a lease for a building at South Main Street and St. Andrew Place that will accommodate their track, the OC Roller Skates retail store and the league's administrative offices — in essence, a hub for all things Roller Girls.

Organizers say the building will not only facilitate physical growth for the league's programs, but will carry on the mission in serving to empower the lives of women through building self-esteem as a platform for achievement.

"We've been searching for a permanent home for probably three or four years, but this has been hot on our radar for about one year now," said Deborah Labriola-Monterrosa (a.k.a. "Dirty Deborah Harry"), who runs the league's OC Roller Skates retail shop and skates for the Roller Girls' team Blockwork Orange.

"We built the track when we thought we had a home for it, and then that home fell through," she added. "So then last July we really had to push. For us to find our building, think about how hard it is for real estate in Orange County. We've really been negotiating since last July."

The Roller Girls practice in Huntington Beach at The Rinks, formerly called Coast to Coast, where they hold their "flat track bouts," or games, on the second Saturday of each month. Before getting the lease, the organization used a banked track located in a warehouse next door to The Rinks.

"The hockey people at The Rinks in Huntington Beach have been awesome to us," Labriola-Monterrosa said. "But we are still not their No. 1 priority; hockey is their No. 1 priority. So we made it our mission last year to find ourselves a home so we could be the No. 1 priority, so that we could never be left homeless."

Now, with a full 2012 schedule slated — including banked and flat-track games with local and regional competitors coming in to challenge — the Roller Girls can now host their own banked track games in Santa Ana.

"We've done this all on our own," Labriola-Monterrosa said. "There's not necessarily a big sponsor out there right now that says, 'Ladies, I'd love to bankroll a woman's sport.'"

Shut out from conventional funding, the Roller Girls created an innovative approach to overcome the obstacle. In addition to internal and individual fundraising efforts, the league raised building funds on indiegogo.com, a fundraising website used by several independent bands, creative people and sports teams.

However, the fundraising efforts are ongoing. The newly acquired building requires many modifications before it can be occupied.

In an effort to help raise funds for the renovations, a raffle and silent auction will be held during their next home bout, which is scheduled for April 14. At 7 p.m. that Saturday, the Roller Girls' team Pulp Friction will take on the West Coast Derby Knockouts from Ventura.

The two teams last met up on March 12, 2011, when Pulp beat the Knockouts, 133-68.

"By day we are mild-mannered, but when we are playing a bout, we are competitive," said Pulp Friction team member Yvonne Matsunaga (a.k.a. "Skatie Gaga"). "We want to win and we stop at nothing. This time we have the home-court advantage and we have amazing fans. I think that will help us with the psychological aspect of it."

Food trucks Dogzilla and The Lime Truck will sell food throughout the evening. Both games will be played on a flat track at The Rinks.

"When we started this thing back in 2006 we had seven people and we now have 200-plus," Labriola-Monterrosa said. "So, it's a big army of people and we need to have space for all of these people to complete everything they need to do to keep this league pushing forward."

Despite the Santa Ana addition, the OC Roller Girls will still be practicing, housed and based in Huntington Beach.

According to Labriola-Monterrosa, Santa Ana is merely just another venue "in a quest to take over all of Orange County."

If You Go

What: The OC Roller Girls' team "Pulp Friction" faces "West Coast Derby Knockouts"

Where: The Rinks, 5555 McFadden Ave., Huntington Beach

When: 7 p.m. April 14

Tickets: $13

Information: (877) 623-3729 or http://www.ocrollergirls.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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