Roller Derby Skaters Move Out Of Groton Rink After City Shuts Down Building

Mar 2, 2018

A roller rink that’s been open in Groton for over 60 years has been shut down by the city. That’s because of a leaky roof that’s flooded the skating surface.

On Monday, the city of Groton placarded building that houses Galaxy Roller Rink as unsafe, which means it’s not open for public use.

Among those who now have nowhere to skate are the girls of Shoreline Roller Derby.

Roller Derby is fun on eight wheels.

The reason the sport has caught on in America is because of the physicality, the personalities, and the wild nicknames.

“It’s a tremendously active, athletic game,” said Shannon Lewis, who’s known as ‘Dirty Olive.’

The martini lover hung up her skates a few years back. Now, she’s vice president of Shoreline Roller Derby — a group that features a team of 40 adults.

Lewis spent the day with derby girls and friends moving their stuff out of the the rink. They cried and hugged periodically. Shelby Carlson not only still skates, but she also runs the youth league.

“I put a lot of effort into the kids’ league,” said Carlson while crying. “And if you talk to the kids, they feel really good about derby.”

At least 20 kids skate for the youth team.

“It’s like fashionista but like ‘beats ya’—like I can beat you on skates,” said 11-year-old Olivea “Fashion Beatsya” Shelton.

When asked if she was sad about what was happening, Shelton remained hopeful.

“Yes, but we’re looking for another place to skate,” Shelton said.

Matt Longino runs that roller rink at 210 Bridge St. in Groton. He’s been mired in a battle over the roof with the owner of the building almost the whole way since he started the business 13 years ago.

“I had been fixing the roof and changing ceiling tiles almost on a daily basis just to stay open,” Longino said.

He said he hasn’t spoken to the owner in years and that communication happens through attorneys.

Longino said he’s refunded everyone who made an event booking and he’s moving on from the business.

“I’m going to take some time off and relax,” Longino said.

The team emblem for Shoreline Roller Derby sits among the materials ticketed for a moving truck.
Credit Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

Every drop of water that smacks the skating surface really bugs Carlson. That’s because she still hopes Shoreline can skate there.

It’s not like there is one bucket out to get the water -- there are buckets all over the place. Water is leaking everywhere.

“The sun’s out outside and it’s raining in here,” Carlson said. “The ceiling tiles that you see have fallen – this is just since Sunday from him not maintaining it.”

As Lewis assessed the damage, she pointed out the worst of it.

“Right where our track is,” Lewis said. “Right in the middle. In the years that I played and coached, many derby leagues have said that our floor was by far one of the best roller skating floors for derby. Matt, for years, made it [the water] not hit the floor. He patched. He filled.”

Buckets collect the leaking water on the skating surface of the Galaxy Roller Rink. The leaking is so bad that the buckets don't collect all of it and ceiling tiles have fallen from above.
Credit Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

Shoreline Roller Derby is a non-profit. Lewis doesn’t get paid for the time she puts in. She’s spending all of it right now trying to find a new home for the team.

“We need 7-9,000 square feet,” Lewis said. “It’s a big space and it’s hard to find--and it’s hard to find something affordable.”

Now, it’s up to the building owner Lou Trefes to comply by putting on a new roof and fixing up the building. If he doesn’t the city says it may contact a prosecutor to force his hand.

Connecticut Public Radio reached out to Trefes’s attorney several times, but did not hear back.