The Brick House Betties seem to be getting a bit of bruising from Cumberland.
Representatives from the roller derby team appeared at a council meeting on Oct. 15 to let mayor and council know their feelings around rate hikes and scheduling changes at the Cumberland Recreation Centre.
“We consider it our base and home,” team vice-president Michelle Sandiford said.
In September, the group found out their access to the centre was changed from drop-in status to that of private bookings or rentals, which affects when they can get time. This came with no notice or formal agreement, they say, despite the fact they have had an eight-year relationship with the facility.
In late July, the Betties also learned of a rate increase for non-profits that will go from $12 up to $30, which they say they will have difficulty meeting.
“We are a small, unique, non-profit sports team,” Sandiford said.
The rate is reduced to $22.50 through to the end of the year, though it still leaves them with a bigger bill, which includes time for the Stone Cold Stellas, their junior team.
“It’s just important to these kids that they have access to this opportunity, and that almost didn’t happen this fall,” Betties’ president Tonya Lowe told council.
She said a scheduling oversight almost left the Stellas without a practice time, but the Betties added some rental time on to make sure the juniors too had access on Wednesdays.
Lowe has been with the team for about seven years and has spent the last couple coaching the juniors. She said the Stellas offer a unique sports activity for youth in the community, especially for ones who face difficulties with the social or competitive pressures from typical organized sports. Through the team, they learn to persevere, become a team player and gain self-confidence.
The Betties though have been told they are not considered a drop-in program but rather a team. The reason is they are not publicly accessible and ask for notification from people interested in taking part. They point out their Sunday times are, in effect, drop-ins for people to come and skate.
“We do welcome skaters throughout the year,” Sandiford said. “We are open to the public, we’re not private.”
The reason they ask for advance notice is to provide equipment such as skates, pads and wrist guards to the public. For hygiene reasons, people still need to bring their own mouth-guards.
Dawn Schonberg, who joined the Betties a couple of years ago, relayed her personal experience to council about the importance of the group.
“The girls are so supportive, and it feels like it’s a major part of the community,” she said. “It’s very empowering to women…. I couldn’t imagine life without it now.”
The team is hoping for some kind of compromise from the Village on the rental rates and to have their drop-in times on Wednesday reinstated rather than coming through rental time.