The Windy City Rollers is a nonprofit organization that strives to promote athleticism and fraternity among its members and seeks to foster professional, personal and athletic advancement for all its members. Whenever possible, the organization shall support and promote its members in all their pursuits both on and off the track. We strive to advance and grow our organization from within, cultivating the blatant and latent talents of all members.
That said, the goal of the organization beyond advancing the sport of roller derby both in the city of Chicago and nationally, is to create a network of talented multifaceted individuals offering both opportunity and training in order to continually self-govern the organization and raise up all its members. We achieve these goals through community outreach, athletic training, and open opportunity for all who are willing to commit themselves toward the advancement of these goals.
In September 2004, women gathered at Cork Lounge in Roscoe Village to hear about a new sport that Elizabeth “Juanna Rumbel” Gomez and Kelly “Sister Sledgehammer” Simmons brought back with them from Austin, Tex. This first meeting became the foundation of Chicago’s premier all-female flat track derby league, the Windy City Rollers.
The Windy City Rollers began bouting in 2005 at Chicago’s historic Congress Theater. It was during our debut season that WCR broke the record for the largest attendance at any flat track derby event up to that date. After the first season, it was clear that the Windy City Rollers had already outgrown the small track at Congress, and so we relocated to the Stadium in Cicero for our second season.
In June 2005, WCR debuted for the Chicago public. WCR’s first public bout was an exhibition matchup between the Fury and the Double Crossers and the Hell’s Belles and the Manic Attackers. The bout was held in the beautiful Congress Theater in front of an impressive crowd of about 3,000. To accommodate the venue, we shrunk the size of the track.
That summer, Chicago played host to the United Leagues Coalition, the precursor to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). More than 50 skaters, representing 20 flat-track leagues, met to form a national governing body for all-women flat-track roller derby. WCR is proud to have been a member of WFTDA since the organization’s inception. The WCR All-Stars train all season to earn a spot to at Regional Tournament and qualify to bout at the annual Championship Tournament, held in November. WCR All-Stars qualified for the Championship Tournament every year from 2006-2014.
In August 2005, several WCR skaters attend the Roller Derby Hall of Fame Induction, where they meet Ivy King. Ivy King was one of roller derby’s first superstars and got her start at age 20 right here in Chicago. Ivy’s tenacity, contribution to the sport, and love of dirty jokes led the league to name the home season championship cup after her. The Fury was the inaugural Ivy King Cup winners in November 2005.
In February 2006, 20 of WFTDA’s 30 member leagues competed in the first-ever all-women roller derby tournament in Tucson, Ari. Three days of hard skating produced the first national derby champions, the Texas Rollergirls. The WCR All-Stars, having skated for one season on a small track (there were no standards prior to the first season), finished 18th out of 20 teams.
In June 2006, WCR moved to Cicero Stadium, where we could finally lay down a regulation-sized track and incorporate more room for our ever-growing fan base. But by 2008, we were selling out even the 1,500-capacity Cicero Stadium. In July 2008, an agreement was finalized with the University of Illinois at Chicago, making the UIC Pavilion the league’s new home. Ten years later, WCR still holds bouts at this venue in downtown Chicago.
WCR continues to expand and evolve, just like the sport of roller derby itself. In 2009, WCR added a second travel team, Second Wind, to boost our interleague competition and serve as a training ground for future All-Stars. In 2013, WCR added a third travel team, Third Coast.
In 2010, WCR hosted the WFTDA Championships, Uproar on the Lakeshore. The WCR All-Stars took first in the North Central Region Playoff, earning them a bye in the first round of the Championship. WCR lost to Oly Rollers, who went on to take second place overall, in the second round.
In 2014, WCR celebrated one decade of modern flat-track roller derby in Chicago. We’re all looking forward to the next decade of world-class roller derby in Chicago, and we’re working hard to make it a reality.