First Posted: 7/1/2012 2:26:45 PM | Last Updated: 7/1/2012 7:32:02 PM
WEST LAFAYETTE – Despite temperatures of nearly 100 degrees outside and the sauna-like atmosphere inside the Family Sports Center, about 500 fans of the Lafayette Brawlin Dolls never let up the ear-splitting cheers between the loud, heart-pumping music, as they rooted their team against the Richmond Dire Stakes Saturday (June 30).
The Brawlin Dolls, Greater Lafayette’s own women’s flat track roller derby team, didn’t let the home crowd down with a convincing 137-70 trouncing. The growth of roller derby and the Lafayette team was evident by the enthusiastic crowd, souvenir sales and concession stands.
Bouts have even become the spot for special occasions. At halftime, fan Dan Panozzo proposed to his fiancée Katy Richwalski at track side, with wild approval from the fans.
LBD, as they are known by its local following, has become a well-run, organized entity and even those sophisticated in the world of sports market, had to walk away impressed with grass-roots operation that was sprung four years ago.
“I was really skeptical about the crowd because of the heat but it really shows the loyalty of the locals,” said bench coach Kris Mullikin, known by her skate name LwedaKris. “With two girls getting ready to leave, it meant for them to be here. To see people supporting your local roller derby and giving empowerment to a lot of young girls, it means a lot.”
It was farewell of sorts for Michell Kyger, 39, also known as Woe Mamma. Her daughter got her started in roller derby 2 ½ years ago. She was serving as captain of this year’s team but has decided to hang up the skates to support her daughter, a member of the Indianapolis junior roller derby team, full time.
“Our crowds are wonderful,” Kyger said. “It shows how much our community is open. I’ve grown athletically. At first I couldn’t even get through a practice and now I can skate with them. The sisterhood here is wonderful.”
Saturday’s home bout will be the Brawlin’ Dolls last until September. LBD will skate in front of its home crowd again Sept. 29 when they take on the Southland Slashers and the Twin City Derby Girls in a doubleheader. They will end their home season Oct. 6 against the Traverse City Roller Girls A and B teams.
“A lot of people think this is theatrical wrestling type stuff but it’s a legit sport,” Mullikin said. “Beyond high school and college, there are not a lot of sports for them so it’s good to get out and support a sport that’s not connected to a high school.”
She said the energized crowd is a credit to how hard LBD has gotten out into the Greater Lafayette community to sell roller derby and then putting an entertaining product on the track. The LBD program lists 16 business sponsors and $1 of every ticket sold is donated to the Tippecanoe County Court Appointed Special Advocates Association (CASA).
“A lot of increase seems to be word-of-mouth,” Mullikin said. “They have an awesome time and they go back and tell someone else. They have no idea what to expect when they come in here but they enjoy themselves win or lose.”
The Brawlin Dolls seems to have a winning combination on and off the track.