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Beyond the fishnets
Kristie Gartner and Kendal Trefz have plans — plans on top of plans. Like, a hoarder's house full of things to get done.
"This is why we don't sleep," Trefz says, and you're not sure exactly which part she's talking about.
Obviously, she's talking roller derby, specifically the Central California Area Derby league, which Trefz helped start last year. The league has two teams — Atomic Assault and Rock n' Rolla — that practice two hours a day, four days a week. They're working to earn membership into the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, the governing body for this sort of thing.
So, there's that plan.
There's also the junior league, for girls 12 to 17, which was started because A.) there was interest and B.) "there are so many naughty teenage girls out there," Trefz says, the smash-and-dash of roller derby being a good outlet for that.
But the big plan, the one that makes the rest possible, is the Skate Asylum, a 15,000-plus square-foot warehouse on H Street downtown. This is where the girls run practices and will host home games — the first is April 10 against Derby Revolution of Bakersfield Privates. Home matches are scheduled for the second Saturday each month after that.
In part, the Asylum was born of necessity, Trefz says.
After the Valley Fever Derby team disbanded there were 15 girls who still wanted to skate. More than that, they wanted to take things to the next level, get more girls involved and create a home for the sport in Fresno.
"We all found this one crazy thing we love to do," she says.
"We had to do this. We had no other option."
Not that finding a suitable spot was easy. They needed a building that was large enough for a track, but without indoor support beams to get in the way and owned by someone willing to take a risk on the idea.
And while the room mostly fits the bill, there is still some work to be done. The girls are looking to have a track painting on the ground, to replace yellow and orange tape they use now, and there are bleachers — old wooden ones like in that Nirvana video — coming in from Kentucky, and they were a hassle and a half to find, Gartner says.
There are plans to build a stage in time for the first bout, even host a battle-of-the-bands fundraiser sometime in March. They're also looking for sponsors. There is plenty of wall space for advertisments.
Where the plans all go from here, who knows?
There will be an all-star travelling team.
And to hear Gartner tell it, they will make the WFTDA National Championships.
If plans work out, maybe they'll host the tournament someday.
The Asylum does have room to grow. In fact, half of the warehouse is still being used for storage, left over office furniture from the old tenant. And as long as we're talking plans — OK, this one is more of a dream — Gartner would love to take the place "bi-tractal."
It sounds like a real word and Gartner says it and her eyes light up.
She means, they'd like to build a banked track. That's how people remember roller derby, she says, though hardly anyone does it anymore. There are less than five banked tracks in the United States, and building one would instantly make Fresno a destination for skaters and spectators.
"Now grandma comes because grandma remembers bank track," Gartner says.
And to skate a banked track? Now, that would be the dream.
Because it's faster and meaner and nobody does it, so there's no governing body and no rules.
"You can clotheline," Gartner says and she's smiling just thinking about it.
Of course, that's not why she skates.
"Don't get me wrong. Bustin' chops is kind of fun," Gartner says. But for her, roller derby is about the friendships she's made. That's what makes the 45-minute drive from Coarsgold she makes four times a week totally worth it. "I've got BFFs now. I've got besties," she says.