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Wednesday, March 4, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 9.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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Mad Rollin' Dolls open 2009 season in new digs at Coliseum
The new venue isn't the only change derby fans will see in 2009.

The Mad Rollin' Dolls have polished their bearings and tuned up their quads, and will kick off the 2009 home season this Saturday in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Alliant Energy Center. "We're sincerely glad of all the support and love that Madison has shown us over the last four years, and we look forward to an incredible fifth season" beams Alison Janssen, the Unholy Rollers veteran known on the track as "Mel Ignant."

Madison's women's flat track roller derby league played its final bout last month at Fast Forward Skate Center, the south side roller rink it called home for more than four years. While the Dolls will continue to practice there, the 2009 season's seven-date schedule will be held entirely at Alliant. Bouts will be spread out across the complex, including in the Coliseum, Exhibition Hall, and the Arena.

With capacity at Fast Forward stunting the Dolls' growth last season, the league resolved that it was time to move up in the world, particularly after hosting the highly successful Derby in Dairyland regional tournament at the Coliseum last October. Under the guidance of the newly-formed Executive Board, composed of six skaters and one staff member, the league sought out a contract to hold its bouts at Alliant. After months of hard work, extensive planning, and more hard work, the deal was officially made in December.

In addition to a larger space, unobstructed views, and a nearly unlimited number of comfortable seats, the center offers a host of possibilities for the organization's growth. "Derby has always been an incredible event, and now our venue will reflect and amplify that," says Janssen, who serves as a member of the board. "We are so grateful to Fast Forward for allowing us the space and time to grow and develop, and now we feel like a league full of beautiful butterflies on rollerskates, ready to burst from our cocoons and beat our wings in unison to cause the perfect storm of derby on the Alliant grounds!"

The growth of roller derby in Madison over the last four years has paralleled the growth of the sport on a national -- and even worldwide -- level. Leagues are outgrowing their underground cultural roots and making their way into the mainstream, often trading in kitsch for national rankings, and moving from small rinks (or, in some cases, empty warehouses and airplane hangers) to larger and more prominent venues.

But this change poses a few challenges for Madison's do-it-yourself derby league.

"We're now in a position to really focus on marketing and advertising," remarked Janssen. "We can fit more fans in the building, so we're working on exciting new initiatives to bring derby to those Madisonians who have not yet had the opportunity to see us in action." One such push is in the form of a short commercial pitching the opening set of matches. As for the athletes, the move will mean adapting to brand new surroundings and skating on an entirely different floor. But Janssen and plenty of others think the future of derby in Madison looks pretty bright.

The new venue isn't the only change derby fans will see in 2009.

Throughout the regular season, each of the four home teams will get the chance to play a team from another league in the region. In the second through fifth bouts of the season, one home team will have a bye while another will face a visiting league. As inter-league play blossoms across the country, this new schedule gives more Dolls a chance to play inter-league games without necessarily needing to commit to the traveling teams, the Dairyland Dolls and Team Unicorn. This Saturday's home opener, however, will just see the four home teams take to the track

Here is the complete season five schedule at the Alliant Energy Center. Some dates and locations subject to change.

Saturday, January 10
Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Doors open at 5:30 p.m., action starts at 6 p.m.

Sunday, February 1
Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Doors open 12:30 p.m., action starts 1 p.m.

Saturday, March 7
Exhibition Hall
Doors open 5:30 p.m., action starts 6 p.m.

Saturday, March 21
Doors open 5:30 p.m., action starts 6 p.m.

Sunday, April 5
Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Doors open 2:30 p.m., action starts 3 p.m.

Saturday, April 25 -- Semi-Finals
Exhibition Hall
Doors open 5:30 p.m., action starts 6 p.m.

Saturday, May 16 -- Finals
Exhibition Hall
Doors open 5:30 p.m., action starts 6 p.m.

The Alliant Energy Center is located at 1919 Alliant Energy Center near Rimrock Road and John Nolen Drive on the south side. Parking is $5, so decrease that carbon footprint and carpool.

The match-ups at the season opening bout on Saturday will see the reigning 2008 champions, the Quad Squad take on the Vaudeville Vixens, and the Unholy Rollers face the Reservoir Dolls. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the first jam starts at 6 p.m. Tickets for the bout are $10 in advance or $12 at the door, and are available for purchase here. A portion of proceeds will be donated to the Rainbow Project, a local nonprofit organization that offers support to children and families throughout greater Madison and Dane County.

After the bout, the Dolls will be heading to the High Noon Saloon for a season kickoff party featuring Them Damn Young Livers, The Hussy, and IfIHadAHiFi. The show is $5, or free with a ticket stub from the opener.

Melissa Faliveno skates as Harlot Bronte with the Mad Rollin' Dolls and works as an editor and freelance writer in her spare time.

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