Celebrating the Only Sport Invented in Chicago: World Roller Derby Week

Photo Credit: Roller Derby Hall of Fame: Roller Derby sold out Comiskey Park with 50,118 roller derby fans in attendance on Sept. 15 1972.

Of all major sports that have been able to sell-out 50,000-seat stadiums in the US, only 3 have been invented in the US. The history of roller derby is deeply entwined with the history of Chicago, and the history of sport in America.”

The first annual World Roller Derby Week, celebrating the history, the future and the community impact of the only sport invented in Chicago, and one of the few major sports created in the US will be hosted by the Midwest All Stars, Northern Illinois Junior Roller Derby and Brown Paper Tickets, Sunday, Aug. 13 – Sunday, Aug. 20.

Roller Derby was invented by Chicagoan Leo Seltzer who debuted the sport at the Chicago Coliseum on Aug. 13, 1935. Seltzer and his son, Jerry, grew roller derby into one of the most popular spectator sports in the US, producing weekly games in cities from coast to coast and broadcasts on 272 television stations with higher ratings than hockey or the NBA. At the apex of its popularity, roller derby was selling out games held at professional baseball stadiums, including a game that sold out Comiskey Park with 50,118 fans on Sept. 15, 1972.

Knock-off leagues tried and failed to cash-in on roller derby’s popularity. Amateur athletes revived the game 25 years later, and evolved it into an accessible, challenging contact sport that builds strength, community, and a sense of empowerment while generating excitement for fans. Today roller derby is played in every state in the US and in 65 countries around the world, and has been considered twice as a contender for a future Olympic event.

“Junior leagues are the future of the sport,” said Jane Van Stelle Haded, co-organizer of World Roller Derby Week and an organizer for Northern Illinois Junior Roller Derby League. “The great thing about junior roller derby is that the roller derby players tend to be from very diverse backgrounds, so these juniors get all the benefits of playing a youth sport (fitness, confidence, setting goals, handling challenges, working with others) but they also get to play it an environment that is very accepting of differences.”

“Of all…

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