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Roller Odyssey rolls again

MEDFORD — The sounds of roller skates will once again echo off the walls of the former Roller Odyssey skating rink, which reopened last week as a home base of sorts for Southern Oregon Derby.

Members converged on the site last week to install a “sport court” practice floor. SO Derby treasurer Rachel Patstone said immediate plans call for the organization to use the old rink for practice sessions, with home bouts still being held at the Medford Armory.

Eventually, and depending on longterm agreements with the rink owner, the Coquille Tribe, the rink could one day be used for official events and possibly even public skating or skate-related community events, Patstone said.

Patstone’s roller derby group, Southern Oregon Roller Girls, merged with its rival, Sis-Q Rollerz, this summer to form a larger competitive league. Patstone said being offered use of the old rink was an exciting surprise.

The building was reportedly being purchased and turned into a furniture store sometime last year, but zoning requirements called for expensive upgrades, including a sprinkler system, if use of the building was to be changed.

“They contacted me and asked if we wanted to use it, and I didn’t have to even think,” Patstone said. “I just said, ‘Yes!’ I didn’t know what it looked like inside here or anything. I was pretty excited. I said, ‘How much are you going to charge us to use it,’ and they said, ‘Nothing.’”

Patstone said utilities and improvements “won’t be cheap,” but league members are excited to see the old building used once again for skating. Many of the league members skated at Roller Odyssey as children or brought their own families to the rink before it closed in 2014.

SO Derby members moved in last week and got to work cleaning the old floor and installing large skate panels for practice sessions.

If plans for a regional casino are approved, the building will eventually become part of a complex of properties surrounding the new casino. With plans for the casino stalled at the federal level, project spokesperson Ray Doering said, the skater-owned, nonprofit league would be offered a one-year lease until the building is needed for other purposes.

Doering, communications director for Tribal One, which is managing the project for the Coquille Tribe, said it made sense not to leave the rink vacant when local skaters could benefit.

“We’re obviously in the process of developing the properties there, and we had this great opportunity to purchase the building that was the roller rink, as part of our overall plan for the entire strip of properties there. Our eventual plan would be to have different kinds of businesses that would tie into what would eventually become the casino project,” he said.

“We’re looking at other types of uses and other types of entertainment. This property was sitting vacant, so we said, ‘If you’d like to use it to practice, we’d be happy to have somebody using it.’”

The federal government, after seven years of review, has yet to determine whether the property, just north of U.S. Cellular Community Park in south Medford, should be considered tribal land, which would allow development of a casino.

The tribe controls some 45 acres in the area through a combination of leases and purchase.

“We’re kind of playing it by ear right now and allowing the group to use the building. We’ll see how development goes, but it just made sense to put a little lease together for them to use the space,” said Doering.

“We’ll wait and see how our development plans go. It’s good to have people using the space and not to have it sitting vacant.”

Patstone said the derby group, founded as “SORG” in 2009, was happy to have the space for as long as possible.

“They gave us a one-year lease with no cost. We hope it lasts forever, obviously, but nothing lasts that long, so we’re just riding it out and are going to enjoy it while we have it,” she said.

Southern Oregon Derby will host a “Fall Brawl” at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 9, at the Medford Armory, to celebrate merging of the two local derby leagues. Tickets cost $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Kids 12 and younger will be admitted free. For tickets, see www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4323248.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Photo by Buffy PollockMembers of Southern Oregon Derby install a “sport court” practice floor at the former Roller Odyssey skating rink.
Photo by Buffy PollockMembers of Southern Oregon Derby install a “sport court” practice floor at the former Roller Odyssey skating rink.