AEG Live CEO Chuck Morris on the 2011 WFTDA Roller Derby Championships
Chuck Morris has been a roller derby fan since he was ten years old, and in 2010, he made news by bringing the Denver Roller Dolls to the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield and then attracting the 2011 Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) Championships to that venue for this weekend's three-day Continental Divide & Conquer tournament, November 11-13. We caught up with Morris, the president and CEO of AEG Live Nation-Rocky Mountain Region, for a preview of this weekend's action and his perspective on what he says is the world's fastest-growing sport.
A lot of people here in Denver were surprised to see AEG Live Nation throwing so much weight behind roller derby, and specifically behind bringing the Denver Roller Dolls to the 1st Bank Center last season and promoting the league heavily. I understand it's been something of a personal project for you.
The Denver Roller Dolls' Mile High Club will host the 2011 WFTDA Championships even though the team missed the cut to compete
I fell in love with the sport as a kid, going to see roller derby at the Brooklyn Armory when I was about ten years old. Back then it was more of a show and less of a sport -- it was closer to professional wrestling -- but now it's really a competitive sport. I loved it as a kid too, but now it appeals to real sports enthusiasts. It's fun, it's fast, and it's a rough, bang-up sport. I kept my eye on it when it started coming back and we started seeing this roller derby resurgence here in Denver and across the country, and when we took over the building in Broomfield I wanted to bring one of the leagues into it. We had the right building and I felt it would be an unbelievable place to see roller derby, so we made a deal with the Denver Roller Dolls and that was that. We just wrapped our second season with them, and we supported the girls in their pitch to bring the WFTDA Championships here. This will be the first time ever that the roller derby championship tournament will be in Colorado. Last year it was in Chicago and the year before that it was in Philadelphia. I actually went two years ago in Philly when I was still working to bring the Denver Roller Dolls here, and the tournament was just spectacular.
It must be tough to have had the Denver Roller Dolls' Mile High Club miss the cut this year for the championships they're hosting.
Last year both of the Denver leagues were in the finals, but I guess you can't have one state dominate it every year. I'm thrilled to have one of our local leagues in it this year, and it's even better that the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls' 5280 Fight Club are the defending champions. My mission is to help build roller derby as a sport, not just to help the Denver Roller Dolls, and I see bringing the championships here as one of the building blocks. It will be even better if one of our local leagues wins it again.
The Rocky Mountain Rollergirls' 5280 Fight Club, 2010 WFTDA champions, will defend the Hydra Trophy this weekend.
The growth of flat-track women's roller derby has been pretty phenomenal, with new leagues popping up all over Colorado and across the country in the last few years. What have you seen, from your perspective, in the Denver Roller Dolls' first two seasons at 1st Bank Center?
It's been quietly but steadily growing, and at our last game of the season this year we broke 3,000 tickets, which is phenomenal. It's still a very new sport, but it is growing beautifully, here and around the country. Five years ago most of the teams were playing in warehouses or roller skating rinks where hardly anybody could watch, and now, in places like Seattle, they're averaging like 6,000 people per bout, so it's really been building into a substantial sport with a big spectator draw. I imagine within two or three years we'll be selling out every one of our home games at the 1st Bank Center, and I think the championships being here this weekend, with the top 12 teams in America, is really going to help spread the word in this area about roller derby and how much fun it is to watch.