Whip it, St. Pete: Banked Track Roller Derby ignites the Sunshine City

Team meeting inside a roller derby track

Did you know the only banked track roller derby in the Southeast is in St. Petersburg, Florida? If you’ve never made it out to the Slayground (4033 35th Street North), our local Roller Derby teams home turf, then you’re missing out. Roller Derby is a wild, fast-paced, cerebral sport that is equal parts carnage and grace. More than just a sprawling bout, roller derby offers St. Pete residents an athletic outlet to pursue childhood dreams, and let out some pent up rage.

Deadly Rival Roller Derby launched several years ago in the ‘Burg. The founder, whose Derby name is Murder, brought the fervor and fever for the sport to the Sunshine City. Over the course of 5+ years, the team’s bada** leader has cultivated a community of tenacious women.

Roller Derby Team doing push ups on a banked track

Wildest sporting event in Tampa Bay

Let me just say, if you’ve been to a Lightning game, or a Rowdies match and think you know what a lively crowd is, Deadly Rival will totally up the ante. The Slayground is covered in murals and graffiti, the track itself is pulled straight from a Tim Burton set, and fans in attendance get an up close and personal view of all the action.

Yes, it’s fun for adults, but it’s also totally family-friendly.

The sport ain’t for the feint of heart. Many skaters have hurt their ankles, fingers, wrists, and hips. But it’s all for the love of the derby. Seriously. These women are paying out of pocket to put on bouts, to gear up, to travel across the U.S. to compete against other teams.

Deadly Rival also hosts open tryouts throughout the season. No, you can’t just walk on. Those interested need to cut their teeth on the fresh meat circuit before entering an official derby jam.

How banged up can you get?

Deadly Rival has a full gallery of bruises available on their website.

Roller Derby team doing a lap around the track

The rules of Roller Derby

Here are the basic rules of Roller Derby:

  • Each team fields five players at a time.
  • Out of those five players, four are BLOCKERS and one is the JAMMER (point scorer).
  • The four blockers from each team line up together between a designated “Pivot Line” and “Jammer Line” marked on the track, to form a PACK, while the two jammers line up behind the Jammer Line.
  • The skater wearing the star on her helmet is the jammer. The skater wearing the stripe on her helmet is called the PIVOT. The pivot is commonly the pack leader and defensive play caller, similar to football’s middle linebacker position.
  • On the whistle the pack and jammers may begin to engage each other.
  • On the first lap, the jammers earn no points, but the first jammer to legally pass each blocker on the opposing team and clear the pack is called LEAD JAMMER. You can tell if a skater is the Lead Jammer by looking at her designated jammer ref. The jammer ref will point to the jammer and hold his/her hand up in an “L” shape. The Lead Jammer reserves the right to strategically end the jam before the two minutes are completed by repeatedly gesturing with her hands on her hips. If both jammers commit fouls on their first lap, there is no Lead Jammer in that jam and it will run for the full 2 minutes.
  • Jammers lose Lead Jammer status if they are sent to the penalty box during the jam.
  • After a jammer completes her initial lap, she scores 1 point for each opposing skater she passes.
  • Jammers automatically score points against opposing skaters serving in the penalty box.
  • Jammer referees hold up fingers at the conclusion of each lap for points just earned.

Roller Derby team breaking through the pack

Welcome to the Slayground 

I was fortunate to be invited to a practice/scrimmage by T-Wrex aka Alaina. Her name emanates from her love of Jurassic Park. When you see her skate on the banked track, like so many of her derby teammates, you’ll understand where the intensity comes from.

The Slayground is a place where charisma, persona, theatricality, athleticism, and practice intertwine. It’s wild is what I’m saying.

The next bout takes place on Saturday, January 11. Doors open at 5:30pm, and the bout officially begins at 7pm. Tickets are $15 in advance online, and $20 at the door. VIP box seats are also available for $40. Kids 6-11 get in for $8, and kids 5 and under enjoy free admission.

Bring cash for the food truck, Derby Swag, raffles and more. Free beer and wine is available with a valid ID.

Roller Derby team practicing

Live music, free beer and wine, and food trucks

During the event, Deadly Rival offers music presented by DJ Deadly Rival and DJ KillaHertz and the team’s infamous announcer, Tallywacker Schvantz Johnson.

Interested in joining the team or volunteering at a bout? Visit the Deadly Rival website and reach out to the team to set something up. Community support is what helps keep such a unique and old school event running.

You can find a full Deadly Rival Roller Derby Bout Schedule online.

Also just want to pay homage to several amazing Derby names I learned during the practice:

Princess Slaya
Kitten X
Doomsday Adams
Von Doom
Skinya

What would your Roller Derby name be? Let us know in the comments.

Leave your vote

18 points
Upvote Downvote

Written by Andrew Harlan

Andrew Harlan

Andrew Harlan is the Editor of ilovetheburg.com. Follow him on Twitter @harlanyoungII and Instagram @harlanyoung. Send tips and potential stories to info@ilovetheburg.com.