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Winning World Championships is getting routine for the Roller Derby team at Oaks Amusement Park

PAIGE WALLACE - Front and center, its The Hydra - the Womens Flat Track Roller Derby Associations World Championship trophy, in the trophy case in The Hangar at Oaks Park. It is designed like a Roller Derby skate, and is named after one of the original founders of WFTDA, who skated under the name Hydra. Southeast Portland now boasts of a four-time world championship sports team – and it displays the trophy that goes along with that title.

Portland's Roller Derby all-star team "Wheels of Justice" (W.O.J.) clinched the 2019 championship on November 17 against New York's "Gotham Girls". The tournament took place in Montreal, and featured teams from as far away as Argentina and Australia.

This win marks Portland's fourth Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) world title in the last five years. As a result, the championship trophy, called The Hydra, will remain on display at the team's current home track inside The Hangar at Oaks Amusement Park in Sellwood.

"We played exceptionally well, and are really proud of our performance," exclaimed team Co-Captain Nicole Williams, who skates under the name "Bonnie Thunders".

Portland dominated the championship game, with a final score of 145-65. Williams attributes the win, in part, to her team's strategic style of play, and training sessions four to five times a week.

"We are in awe of what a great job our skaters did," RCR Executive Director Kim Stegeman told THE BEE. "They left it all on the track. They were one smooth-moving unit. They depended on each other; they trusted in their teammates, and they had great communication."

W.O.J. is the all-star team associated with Portland's Rose City Rollers (RCR) league. In addition to the all-stars, the league consists of four other competitive adult teams, two youth teams, and a recreational roller derby program. RCR is a nonprofit organization, with more than 500 participants.

Stegeman and Williams encourage Southeast Portland residents to attend RCR's upcoming intra-league season, which runs January through June. The first game is Saturday, January 4, at The Hangar. She said the bouts provide the fans with excitement and accessibility.

"You are literally ten feet from the action in this sport, and you can go up to the world's very best athletes, say hi, take a photo with them," Stegeman said.

Fans hoping to watch the all-star "Wheels Of Justice" team will have an opportunity to witness a rematch of the world championship bout when "Gotham Girls" come to Portland in May. Williams said crowds can expect that exhibition match to be "some of the most competitive derby that you could see here in the Portland area".

Both Williams and Stegeman recommend that the public buy tickets well in advance of any game – often, it's best to get tickets several weeks ahead. They expect especially high demand for the rematch against New York.

Meanwhile, RCR continues its lengthy struggle to find a new home. The organization needs to relocate after the Portland City Fire Marshal created a rule that effectively forces RCR to move to a different facility – one that is equipped with fire sprinklers, and can accommodate safely crowds of the size the team tends to draw.

The Fire Marshal has granted RCR a temporary variance, which allows the team to stay at The Hangar through June, Stegeman said. After that, RCR will need to file for another extension, if it has not yet located a satisfactory new facility.

Stegeman's ideal new space would be in Southeast Portland. She's looking for around 25,000 square feet that's available either to lease or buy.

"I have looked at probably 100 possible locations, and I'm very realistic about how difficult what we're trying to do is. So we're still looking," she said.

The league recently filed a letter of intent for an empty lot at N.E. 82nd Avenue of Roses across from Madison High School, but Stegeman said it will likely be some time before she hears back about whether that location is a viable option.

Stegeman also pointed out that RCR maintains a good relationship with the Fire Marshal, and would not be able to stay in the Oaks Park location on a variance if crowds were at risk. "People need to know that there's nothing dangerous about our current venue."

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