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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
For those unfamiliar with Roller Derby, it is an emerging, full-contact semi-pro sport, which involves players on roller skates trying to score points by skating past other players, who are allowed to “hit” them to prevent being passed, in a fashion much like you would see in hockey. Roller Derby is played almost exclusively by women, and is governed by the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).
Greensboro Roller Derby was founded in 2010, and currently fields five separate Roller Derby teams, including the Gate City All-Stars, who are the most elite. However, many players play on multiple teams across the five, and most of the time when you attend Roller Derby in Greensboro, you will be treated to a doubleheader involving three Greensboro teams – the first game usually features the All-Stars versus a team from another city, while the second contest features two of the other Greensboro teams playing against each other.
The Gate City All-Stars play home games at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, either in one of the exhibit halls or at The Fieldhouse, which is a separate building next to the complex. The Fieldhouse has a capacity of about 2,200, while the exhibit halls hold between 250 and 300. The main arena inside the Greensboro Coliseum Complex is not used for Roller Derby.
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With such a small crowd, it isn't surprising that there's not much selection at the concessions stands during a Roller Derby game. However, there is plenty to get you by for a couple of hours.
Main dishes include hot dogs, grilled cheese, and grilled turkey & cheese; you can also get pretzels, nachos, popcorn, and potato chips. Prices for food items range from $2 to $6.
Drink items include beer at $10, as well as fountain soda, bottled water, coffee, and hot cocoa; non-alcohol drink prices run from $2 up to $5, depending on item and size.
If you have never been to Roller Derby before, it is actually a lot more interesting than you might think. For newbies to the sport, the rules can be a little hard to follow at first, so you may want to read up on it beforehand, or bring a friend with you who is more of an aficionado.
The basic premise is that each team has five players, including one "Jammer" and four "Blockers". The players start off in a group called a "Pack", and when the whistle blows, both Jammers try to skate through the Pack, while the Blockers all try to knock down the opposing Jammer, or otherwise impede her. If Jammers can make it through the pack, they score points for every Blocker they pass on subsequent trips through the Pack (for example, if a Jammer makes it through the Pack three times, she could score 12 points). Each of these "sessions" is called a "Jam", which can last up to two minutes, and a full game consists of multiple Jams, up to 30 or more. Whichever team scores the most points across all of the Jams will be the winner.
At the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, there are not very many fans in attendance at these games, especially when they play in one of the exhibit halls, so there won't be a ton of crowd noise. However, on the plus side you will be really close to the action, and be able to clearly hear the hits on the track. Also, fans that attend these things are really diehard (more on them later).
The Greensboro Coliseum Complex is located in a heavily trafficked part of the city, so there are plenty of restaurants nearby. The most popular eateries, however, are probably in the downtown area, two or three miles from the complex; two of the most popular destinations are Natty Greene's Pub & Brewing Co, which has plenty of craft beers on tap, and Dame's Chicken & Waffles, which is so popular it often has a long wait. There are also plenty of hotels you can stay at, if you plan to be in town overnight.
While Greensboro is not a huge city by any stretch, depending on what you are into the area does offer some interesting attractions. The most popular is probably the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, which commemorates the sit-ins that occurred here in Greensboro in the 1960s; these sit-ins were actually some of the most influential and significant protests of the entire Civil Rights movement. You can also visit the Greensboro Science Center, which includes an aquarium, zoo, and hands-on activities for the kids. Or, if you are a military history buff (or aspire to be one), you can visit Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, and learn more about General Nathaniel Greene's actions during the Revolutionary War; the museum here does an excellent job teaching visitors about some of the lesser known battles that actually had a huge impact on the outcome of the war.
While not many fans show up to Roller Derby matches at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, the ones that do show up are really into it (you almost have to be, to even be aware of the sport). Not many of them wear team gear, but they do seem to enjoy the hits, and they are solidly behind the home team, with lots of intermittent cheers when things are going well for Greensboro.
Many of the fans seem to be friends or relatives of the players, or otherwise involved in the sport.
You would be hard pressed to find a sports venue with easier access than the Greensboro Coliseum Complex during a Roller Derby game. There is a parking lot that surrounds both The Fieldhouse and the section of the complex where the exhibit halls are, so either way you can park literally only a couple hundred feet from the front door, and parking only costs $5. In addition, thanks to the small capacity and even smaller crowd, there is no line to get inside, nor at the concessions, and both locations have more than enough bathrooms to accommodate the crowd.
Tickets to Greensboro Roller Derby cost $10 for adults, $8 for students, military, and seniors, and $5 for kids. Quite frankly, The Fieldhouse is a much better location than one of the exhibit halls, since The Fieldhouse offers better amenities, including regular stadium seats with chairbacks, better lighting, and a better scoreboard (the exhibit hall has padded folding chairs or bleacher seating, and the scoreboard consists of a projection on the wall). That said, if you have the option, I would recommend seeing a game at The Fieldhouse instead.
There isn't much going on at Greensboro Roller Derby games except the action on the track - there aren't really any fan contests during breaks in the action, or any giveaways, except you do get a free program with your ticket purchase, and they do sell team gear at a table near the track.
If you have never attended a Roller Derby game before, I would encourage you to give it a try. Here at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, it will be a pretty hassle-free (and low budget) experience, with no crowds to fight, cheap parking and concessions, but lots of hard-hitting action only a few feet in front of you.
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345 S Elm St
Greensboro, NC 27401
134 S Elm St
Greensboro, NC 27401
4301 Lawndale Drive
Greensboro, NC 27455
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