by Donna McBride, Councilwoman, City of Casa Grande
As a teenager in the 70s, I spent many weekends at the local skating rink. Besides having a love for skating, I thought it was where the cool kids hung out, especially late skate on Saturday nights. When the strobe lights were glaring, I would go around and around the rink with the music blaring, pretending I was a competition skater. And I’m not talking figure skating, I’m talking roller derby!
Popular in the 50s and 60s, roller derby lost some of its luster due to a little too much theatrics. The guys may have been into big-time wrestling, but my friends and I were into watching those “bad” girls ramming each other.
Fast forward to the present. Roller derby is back, especially in Arizona. Arizona Roller Derby (AZRD) was founded in 2003, becoming the second oldest and best-established flat leagues in the world. Yes, the world!
With 15 seasons under their wheels and over 100 active skaters, they are ranked in the top 40. But who are these modern-day bad girls?
Meet Pinal County resident April Stovall. She is a fierce competitor on and off the floor.
A true executive by day, April is the surveillance and facilities manager for Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino in Maricopa. Over 40 employees follow her lead in her role as Harrah’s Key Collaborator and liaison with general contractors and capital projects related to remodels and expansion. Celebrating 19 years with the company, April grew up in Casa Grande and graduated from Casa Grande Union in 1992.
With all that work responsibility, April knew she needed to counter her condition of “work-a-hol-ism” by finding a balance. Roller derby entered her life at a time when she needed something more, even though she was quick to add she loves working and her job at Harrah’s.
“I wanted to be part of something great while staying fit and healthy. Roller derby was a perfect it. It is a great stress relief,” April says. She did some research and found Roller Derby Arizona. She attended their new-skater orientation, and as the saying goes, the rest is history.
April joined the Arizona Roller Derby in 2015, skating with the Guadalupe team for three seasons. The investment came with a price tag. Practice meant traveling two to three times a week to the Valley after long days at work. The gear alone for “fresh meat” (a.k.a. new players) runs about $300. April had to register an official derby name. Taking suggestions from family and co-workers, she finally made a decision to identify as April May Dismember. The name captures her first name while representing toughness. Perfect for her spunky personality, too.
April recently retired from the Arizona Derby League to skate her way back down the road to join the Casa Grande Roller Derby. Established in 2017 by resident Kelli Brown, the team has nearly 30 members. April says playing in her hometown makes the experience even sweeter. “Kelli is a fierce leader and skater. I am honored to be representing my hometown,” she says.
Their first bout took place in September at the Pinal County Fairgrounds to a crowd of nearly 600. The crowd was a mixture of women, men, children – young and old. The team got the audience roaring with cheers and chants even with the temperatures soaring past 105 degrees.
A 501(c)(3) organization, the mission is to empower women through roller derby and to serve the community as a team. It is evident in their outreach efforts such as feeding the homeless and providing activities for the elderly.
For many players like April, skating is as much a social outlet as a physical one. Coming from different backgrounds, education and careers, members of her team come together with a single mission: to put on those skates and be determined and driven athletes.
Follow the team on Facebook@ CG Roller Derby and look for them in the Casa Grande Electric Light Parade Dec. 1.
Who are roller derby fans?
- 83 percent are college educated
- 33 percent have incomes above $75,000
- The average age is 37
How are teams made up?
- Each game is called a “bout.”
- Teams can have up to 15 players on a roster.
- A pivot blocker wears a helmet cover with stripe on it
- A pivot is usually at the first starting line and serves as leader playing in the jam.
- Line up for a jam consists of one pivot, three blockers, one jammer.
- Each team may field up to five players.