THE HANGAR (2009-Present)
Rose City Rollers (RCR) began to use the Hangar at Oaks Parks for a majority of its bouts in 2009. Ten bouts were held at the Hangar and there were over 200 skating members. The location quickly became the sole place for everything RCR does, however, the path of RCR making the Hangar their home was laid out many years earlier.
Photo by Fun Frank.
Three years before, RCR had come upon the potential of using the Hangar for practices. After negotiating with Oaks Park staff, theywere open to the idea, but there was a lot of work that needed to be done. Prior to that year the Hangar was seasonal storage of picnic tables, bleachers and other things for Oaks Amusement Park. Once all of the items used by the park were relocated, the building was prepared for use as a roller derby venue.
In late 2005, RCR made an assessment of the building, compared it with what was needed, and moved forward with renovations. The biggest step in the process was to clean up the concrete floor, which needed to be patched up and refinished. Then, modular track was purchased, and installed. The office was concurrently constructed in the northwest corner of the building – complete with window overlooking the track. The office and the track were all that was needed to make the Hangar a great place to have league practices.
By the time the league considered using the Hangar for formal bouts, additional modifications were needed. Lockers were added for skaters’ and officials’ use. RCR rented bleachers from Oaks Park. After the first season, portable restrooms were purchased.
As soon as the home for RCR was completed, the league was primed for growth.
Once RCR had created this centralized practice facility, they sought ways to improve their skills as skaters by creating new skating programs. The new programs provided skaters opportunities to learn skills at a younger age or with more experienced members.
Photo by Masonite Burn.
The first training program to be added to Rose City Rollers was Wreckers, the recreational league, in 2008. Originally created for retired skaters to stay involved with roller derby, it has evolved into something more. Today, Wreckers has become an avenue for skaters to gain the experience and skills to become the best they can be. The program includes the basic skating skills-focused Derby 101, and Wreckers Skills and Drills, and a Wreckers scrimmage hour.
At about the same time Wreckers was created, so was the Fresh Meat program. These skaters practice with the home teams and with each other while they improve, in hopes of being drafted onto a home team.
Two RCR skaters wanted to work with youth, and Rose Buds was formed in 2007. The program is geared toward skaters between the ages of 12-17. It had a small beginning but steadily grew over three years. In 2010 the program became large enough to create 4 home teams and begin to have bouts between one another.
Photo by Masonite Burn.
The most recent program added to Rose City Rollers is the Rose Petals. Skaters ages 7 to 11 participate in drills to teach the proper form and technique of skating. It was just earlier this year that the program fielded two home teams and had a game against one another.
Outside of the training programs, we can’t forget about the home and travel teams that make use of the Hangar for practice, scrimmage, and off-skates workouts. Today, the four home teams and two travel teams make up about 10% of all the RCR skaters, but they use the Hangar for the most amount of time.
In addition to these four training programs, there are additional skating groups that make use of the track, including Portland Men’s Roller Derby and Skating Officials.
All of these programs, established during the first few years of the Hangar-as-home-base, have helped to put RCR on the roller derby map–and the Wheels of Justice, our travel team in the Top 10 in the WFTDA rankings. The skating programs have exceeded their goals of expanding RCR, but also have maximized the use of the Hangar.
THROUGH THE YEARS
By the 2010 season, the league had established itself with all ages and abilities, and the season showed it. Expanding more than it had before, 22 Hangar bouts took place, along with 3 bouts at the Expo Center. The league had 40-plus hours a week in practices exclusively at the Hangar. It should be noted that it was the first year that the bouts were broadcasted. That year, the league put in place strategic planning for locating a more profitable venue. They were unable to find a permanent space, but the City’s mayor played a big role in tracking down a venue to use for special events.
The new venue that was discovered was the Memorial Coliseum. The two bouts that were held during the 2011 season were bigger than the league had anticipated. Using the Memorial Coliseum opened up more avenues for sponsorship and advertising. The special venue space was such a big hit, that RCR now uses it three times each season: Season Opener, Championships and a special exhibition 4×4 with Rat City.
The idea of RCR needing to find a bigger, permanent facility was looming. The growth of the RCR’s popularity was continuing to grow, but the league itself was ‘business as usual’ for the next three years. In short, the last three years of the league went like this:
2011: 163 skaters, 26 Hangar Bouts, 2 Coliseum Bouts, 1 Expo Center Bout
2012: 208 skaters, 26 Hangar Bouts, 4 Coliseum Bouts
2013: 239 skaters, 21 Hangar Bouts, 3 Coliseum Bouts
THE SKATERS AND FANS
This first home of the Rose City Rollers has been a good place for the league to really come into its own and mature. As it has matured, the Hangar has become very well-liked by the skaters and fans.
Seemingly the biggest benefit for the skaters is the location of the Hangar. RCR has built relationships with many businesses in SE Portland. Most skaters have relocated to the area to be closer. Oaks Amusement Park also has a skating rink and pro shop that can benefit the skaters needing equipment maintenance. Aside from the physical parts of the Hangar, it just feels like home to the skaters as it is a space that is not used by anybody else.
From the fans’ perspective, the compact space of the Hangar has created an intimate and laid back atmosphere. Over time the lighting and sound has improved so much and it has become a party atmosphere at the same time. The concessions are now contracted by RCR and the proceeds go directly to the league. Overall the Hangar is a very affordable venue with very friendly Oaks park staff that are more than willing to help out.
Photo by Fun Frank.
Despite all of the things to like about the Hangar, some of the drawbacks have become evident as the league has grown. The building itself is limited to only twelve weekends of use in the year according to fire code restrictions. The prime complaint from the skaters is wanting more time on the track. As for the fans, it would be great if the bouts wouldn’t sell out weeks in advance. For everyone involved in RCR, something has to change, and soon.
ASSESSMENT OF THE HANGAR
Location – Good
The Hangar is a great central location for the league, its fans, and the skaters. The venue is a short distance from a major state highway and provides adequate parking for all bouts and practices.
Value – Fair
The Hangar is a very affordable venue for RCR to use as it is their own rented space. There is little to no setup involved with each game beyond the concessions and the minor track adjustments. The venue is adequate for a moderate fan base, however, it would be advantageous to have capacity for additional fans.
Potential – Poor
The Hangar is purely a destination for practice and bouts. A full-time skate shop, food or bar cannot be a part of the Hangar as it currently stands. The future needs of the league are expansion, and the Hangar is incapable of providing the space needed for the league to expand in any capacity. The venue itself has a limit on the amount of space, and the venue’s selling out early and consistently. In order to advance RCR forward, more space is needed.
During the last couple of years, the management team has explored possibilities for modifying the Hangar to better suit the league needs. In 2013, RCR representatives met with Oaks Park and a City of Portland City Planner to discuss the possibilities for property development.
It was discovered that the Hangar is very limited in any development possibilities due to the property zoning. The Hangar is in close proximity to the River and is located adjacent to a protected wetlands. Development is possible, but the permitting costs are very high in the protected area. After discussion within RCR staff, it was decided that development of the Hangar was not an option.
Rose City Rollers discovered many years back that the Hangar was limited in its ability to grow with the league. Also, since the Hangar is unable to be changed to accommodate the league’s needs, RCR has to be looking toward a new venue and practice space. Rose City Rollers has had a search committee charged with locating any space that is available to become the new home of RCR. Join us in the third part of our series as we look into the possibilities of a new home and meet who is helping in the search.
Stay tuned for Part 3… our future. Missed Part 1? Click here to read it now.
WRITTEN BY TYSON