What Makes a Banked Track Successful? A Home

“As a banked track league, we are incredibly dependent on a space of our own,” writes Mae Lay, co-founder of the Tilted Thunder Rail Birds. “There are plenty of flat track leagues in the area, and there are plenty of flat track practice space rentals available (roller skating rinks, gymnasiums, community centers). Unfortunately, our track is both our blessing and our curse. Those flat track rental spaces can’t accommodate the banked track.” Many leagues across the world can sympathize with the dream of finding a perfect practice space but few have experienced the challenges of a lease for a bank track.


The banked track is the blessing that makes a warehouse a home. There is an unequivocal connection to the track that cannot be found by using rope and tape. Even the very act of transporting a track is a testament to the teamwork and determination of a league. Unfortunately, the additional time and money necessary to transport and house a track can be a stress on the finances of a league and its skaters. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Derby Dolls were fundraising for a large-scale relocation of the Doll Factory. Now, Tilted Thunder Rail Birds are looking for a new home.

From humble origins, the story of the league is the stuff of movies. The Tilted Thunder Rail Birds began in Seattle 2008 as the baked track team without a banked track. They arrived at Battle on the Bank III, the premier tournament played with RDCL rules, without owning a bank track of their own. “For some of our All-Stars, Battle on the Bank was the first time they had ever even seen the banked track up close,” recalls Mae Lay, “At the time, we were touted as those really excited new kids who can’t stop smiling while they’re losing.” In 2012, they finally raised the $45,000 to get their own track. Now, the Tilted Thunder Rail Birds are a force to be reckoned with. They arrived at this years Battle on the Bank with the All-Stars taking third and the Peeps (the junior program) taking second. Tilted Thunder is a competitive league of skaters dedicated not only to the sport but also the business; and both are growing.

When Tilted Thunder Rail Birds was being established, Mae Lay and Sally wanted to protect the league far beyond their tenure. So they took the extra time and paperwork to establish TTRB as a 501(c)(3) organization. “As a nonprofit, every penny we make above and beyond our expenses (“profit”) gets reinvested into the organization,” describes Mae Lay, Board President and Treasurer as well as Executive Director of Tilted Thunder. “In other words, the better we do financially means the better our programs can become. If ticket sales begin to steadily increase, we can begin to spend that money on better bout production details like spotlights and halftime shows. We could spend that extra money on skating equipment for women and girls who can’t afford gear. We can afford to hire staff to run some of the business aspects of the league so that the skaters can just enjoy skating more and spend less time running the business end of the organization. In other words, the better our business performance, the better our overall program offerings, and the better, more enjoyable the overall skater experience.”


Tilted Thunder continues to develop as a business; part of that is finding a new space. The league currently trains in one location and bouts in another. With the loss of their current lease, the league is hoping to find a location suitable to hosting its own events. Transporting the track to a different location for bouts has a whole different line item cost than for a flat track. And while their ticket sales are on the rise, bouting closer to where the women practice (and host the after party) would help draw a local crowd.


These women have heart, and a lot of that is attributed to their track. “Skating the banked track is like riding a roller coaster,” says May Lee. “Anyone can skate on the floor, but it takes a certain amount of courage and self-confidence to step onto the banked track.” They want to share their heart and dedication with others. They want to offer clinics, training programs, work with the community, and give the Pacific Northwest a taste of the transformational power of banked track.


It all starts with keeping their track out of storage. With $50,000 they would have the money to negotiate a new lease on a new home. They are fundraising. With comedy nights, bake sales, and a plethora of events, they are working to raise this money. They have accomplished so much in their six years, and they are ready to do so much more. With a week to go in their Indigogo campaign Tilted Thunder is less than halfway to their goal but as with their other amazing accomplishments, they may have a chance to reach that $50,000.


A generous pledge by James McDaniel and his wife of James McDaniel Photography may be just what the league needs. From now until Sunday, September 14th this couple will match the first $5,000 in donations to the Indiegogo. Help make a home for the Tilted Thunder Rail Birds, the team that started with a dream and has continued make that dream a reality.

About The Author

DOB: 3/23/1990

Abombnabull skates with Rat City Rollergirls out of Seattle, WA. She strapped on skates for the first time in December of 2011 and has been learning what it takes to be an athlete ever since. She enjoys footage review, weight training, and eating everything in sight. Fascinated by all things roller derby, Abombnabull has trained as a banked track referee and NSO, NSO'd for flat track, and studied coaching strategies.

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