Albuquerque's derby athletes got good enough that it wasn't safe for them to be playing at Midnight Rodeo any longer, says Nan Morningstar, a derby founder. And the derby has yet to find a permanent residence or set up a schedule as a result.
Two big injuries in the off-season from skaters going into poles that surround the track signaled that it was time for the Duke City Derby to make an exit. One skater was sent to the hospital with a sprained neck. One sprained her ankle.
The Duke City Derby even made more strident rules to try to protect players.
"In national rules, if you hit someone out of bounds, it's usually a minor penalty," Morningstar says. "If you hit someone out of bounds on the outside of the track in Duke City, it is an automatic major, because we're very concerned about sending people into the rails." But the added safety measure also made the skaters less competitive in their travel games. "Girls were pulling punches a little bit on the outside of the track."
The derby is sad to leave its home, with Morningstar calling it the coolest rink in the nation. Teams were drawn to Albuquerque for games from far away just because of the wooden-floored track.
The skaters are soldiering on and shooting for a season-opener in June, though there isn't a firm date yet, says Rowan Lange, who skates for the Muñecas Muertas travel team as Death Ro. A committee of derby folk is in talks with Santa Ana Star Casino and waiting for the Tribal Council's thumbs-up or thumbs-down, Lange says. Route 66 Casino doesn't have an indoor space large enough for bouts, she adds. The idea of setting matches up in a parking lot is being kicked around, though a shade structure would have to be built.
The derby women have kept up their practices at the Paradise Hills Community Center. "It's a ways from where we live, but they're willing to have us, and most places haven't been willing," Lange says. Often building owners are concerned about liability, though the derby carries insurance. Owners have also worried about potential damage to floors, though Lange says damage to floors is minimal.
Muñecas Muertas played the Denver Roller Dolls on April 25 at the Dolls' first bout at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver and sold out the 3,000-seat venue, charging $15 a head. Lange says people were scalping tickets at the door for $50. "Once Albuquerque is ready for it, and we can work toward building a larger fan base," Lange says, "we have something to offer this community."