Roller derby GM mixes promotion, mediation

Battle Born Derby Demons rolled onto the sports scene three years back, and have since developed into an entertainment machine that's drawn as many as 1,000 fans to its roller derby bouts in downtown Reno.

But nobody is getting rich.

"Roller derby does attract a certain type of person," says the team's general manager, Michelle Calhoun-Fitts. "It tends to attract a lot of opinionated, aggressive women who are secure in themselves. It's one of the rare instances where women are allowed to be aggressive."

While the team charges admission to games, sells logo merchandise and attracts sponsors, nobody gets paid not skaters, not coaches, not board members, not the manager.

"We run it like a business, but also to be entertaining for our crowd," says Calhoun-Fitts.

It's not the easiest job in town. The nature of the players, for instance, can lead to arguments that require her to be mediator as well as manager.

"We've had issues with training, such as whether a coach was doing a good job," she says. Sometimes Calhoun-Fitts needs to call in a board member to mediate disputes.

The Derby Demons have a rough and tumble history, ever on the move in the search for places to practice. During the warm summer months, the City of Reno grants them first dibs on the concrete skating rink on the river. But in winter, they bounce between city-owned gyms on Neil Road and Plumas Street.

Size of potential venues is the challenge, says the team's manager. "We've had girls careen over the bleachers," she says.

Management of the team, Calhoun-Fitts says, amounts to the oversight of a lot of details.

"Not only are we running a sports team, it's an arts team, Web site, newsletter, merchandise, putting on the events, " she says. "We've done five events a season for the past couple of years."

Among other chores, that means coordinating the food and beer vendors for bouts that typically draw about 700 spectators.

Sponsors include Terrible's Sands Regency Casino Hotel, which provides rooms for visiting teams, and Buckbean Brewery. The Demons logo merchandise comes from Reno-area specialty firms such as Reno Envy and Ad Spec.

When she's not handling daily operations and public relations for the Battle Born Derby Demons, Calhoun-Fitts teaches workshops for Nevada Shakespeare Company and Wild Horse Productions.


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