Rose City Rollers – Portland, Oregon - Atlas Obscura
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Portland, Oregon

Rose City Rollers

Inside a humble hangar is some of the best roller derby the world has to offer. 

If you are looking for a quintessentially Portland experience that lies well off of the beaten path of the International Rose Test Garden, take a short trip south to The Hangar at Oaks Amusement Park and catch one of Rose City Rollers’ bouts. 

It’s hard to convey how much fun a Rose City Rollers bout is. Music is an integral part of Portland’s take on roller derby with a house DJ spinning tunes at every bout. The skaters—who moments before might have been skating hard and fast—periodically and spontaneously break out in “dance parties” as they wait for a time-out to come to a close. Oh, and every Rose City Rollers bout starts with the 1979 Pabst Blue Ribbon commercial with Patrick Swayze in it.

Since the early 2000s, flat track roller derby has been experiencing a renaissance; there are now over 400 leagues around the world. Portland’s women’s flat track roller derby league is one of the best: two-time international championship winners and a regular talent pool for Team USA roller derby.

The sport dates back to the 1930s and 1940s and it became a popular form of televised entertainment in the 1970s and ’80s. Starting in the 2000s, though, it evolved into its current form: a competitive sport played by thousands of people around the world. Take one oval track that narrows going into corners one and three; two teams of five skaters each; and an hour of game play, and you have the makings of modern roller derby.

What is missing from this simple description are the displays of athleticism that make the sport so exciting: point-scoring jammers (recognizable by the stars on their helmets), for example, sometimes try to avoid the opposing team’s defense by leaping across the inside corners of the track.  Then there are the defenders who—as individuals, pairs, tripods, and walls—use their shoulders, torsos, hips, and butts to keep the jammers bottled up, or sent flying as the result of a well-timed “big hit.”

Know Before You Go

When the bout ends, don't bolt for your car: make your way down to the track and exchange high fives with the skaters as they do a final lap around the track—they really appreciate you coming out to support them.