Starting Your Own Paintball Field - Part I
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Starting Your Own Paintball Field

     Starting your own paintball field is a great way to make money and get to play paintball as often as you want!  However, this is just not as easy as setting up a fence, a few bunkers and collecting money at the door.  First, determine why you want a field of your own in the first place; there’s basically two reasons…. 1. Because you already own a piece of land and it would be fun, or 2. Your looking to start a new business and want to try your hand at a paintball park.

     Since it’s going to cost ongoing money for regular supplies (paintballs, new guns, parts, paintball equipment, etc.), it doesn’t make sense to NOT make a business of it and try to make money.  Depending on how large of an operation you want to start out with, there may be a significant initial investment involved in buying all the equipment you’re going to need.  This is another reason to run your paintball field as a business.

     Most of the people interested in starting a paintball field already have land they will use.  You can also purchase a piece of property to open the business, however know what you’re getting into before you go!  Unless you can find a super cheap deal on property, it’s very rare for a start-up paintball field to generate enough money to pay a mortgage.  Your best bet is to already own the property or perhaps go into business with someone who owns land; you can possibly rent the land or consider offering a percentage of the business to the landowner. 

     If you’re starting your own paintball field, there are certain pieces of equipment that will be essential.  The best advice is to start small and add more equipment as you need.  When starting a business, you will want to have a clear goal in mind about how big you plan to get; but don’t let your delusions of grandeur ruin your math skills.  Keep a close tally of all costs from the very beginning, starting with the first quote on paintball gear.

     Before you even start gathering equipment quotes, there are obvious steps you will have to take that are the same for starting any business.  Setting up your business entity and getting a local business license will be necessary beginning steps to becoming a retail dealer.  Every penny counts when starting a business, so getting dealer prices for your equipment quotes is a must.  This is a mandatory first step – become a dealer with the paintball wholesale companies/manufacturers you want to deal with before requesting an initial equipment quote.

     The equipment you will need to start a paintball field can become exhaustive quickly, but you’re better off to start with the bare minimum.  Don’t start by building the paintball field of your dreams right off the bat; start your business with the bare minimum and build into a larger operation with more equipment as your clientele list grows.  You will need bunkers, paintball guns with hoppers, air tanks, and plenty of paintballs.  At first, you can save money on buying only a few paintball markers for people who don’t have one, but allow players to bring their own.  The problem with this is you will get complaints about players who have unfair advantages with totally decked out paintball guns.

     You can level the playing field somewhat with a chronograph.  This device will ensure everyone’s gun has the same velocity.  The other disadvantage of allowing players to bring their own guns is you will be missing out on renting/making money on an essential piece of gear – without a paintball gun, you can’t play.  To save money on your initial equipment investment, however, “bring you own” policies will let you get by with a smaller number of guns for your first purchase.

     Perhaps one of your largest equipment costs is your air tank refill station.  This will require a commercial sized air compressor; depending on the size you want, these can cost between $4500-$14000.  You will also need one (if not several) industrial bulk sized air tanks to store the air you produce from the compressor.  Finally, you will need a fill station scale and air tank refill kit to transfer the air from the bulk sized tank to the smaller paintball gun air tanks.

     While your air tank refill station may be one of your more expensive equipment commitments, it’s also a definite regular income source of every paintball field.  Eventually this investment will pay off – everyone at your field will need air tank refills and will have to pay what you ask if they want to keep playing.  If there are a lot of paintballers in your area, you can also sell tank refills to anyone with an empty tank even if they’re not field customers.

     The best way to save money on your air tank refill station is to consider purchasing a package deal.  You can get much better prices when purchasing an air compressor and bulk air tanks together.  There are different size packages available – containing smaller air compressors and few bulk tanks and larger air compressors with several tanks.  All the necessary gauges, valves, lines and hoses you will need are also included.

     Other essential equipment when starting a paintball field are bunkers.  When deciding on what bunkers to use, first decide if your field will cater more towards speedball or scenario paintball.  This decision may also be impacted by how much room you have to work with or the actual lay of the land.  Fortunately, bunkers can be made of just about anything and still be effective.  Old cars, stacks of tires, barrels, and even rock piles work great.  In some cases the land itself may provide natural bunkers with hills, old barns or buildings, trees or different elevations.

     You can also purchase inflatable bunkers of all shapes and sizes for your paintball field.  Shapes available include large triangles, rectangles, and cylinders that provide great cover while playing.  These types of bunkers are often used in speedball matches.  Inflatable bunkers are also available for scenario play as well and come in shapes of walls, buildings/forts and armored vehicles such as tanks and personal carriers.  These bunkers are great; easy to set up and will give your field an awesome look.  The disadvantage is they are expensive and are probably cost prohibitive for the start up paintball field.

     Another method of making money with your field is by renting out equipment for people to use when playing.  This equipment will consist of a paintball gun, mask, hopper and air tank.  You can also offer various protective equipment like chest or groin protectors, helmets or even tactical vests.  After your field has a positive cash flow, you can upgrade your equipment rentals with better masks or guns (offered at higher fees) or attachments to the markers, like better barrels or sniping scopes – also offered at higher rentals fees.

     Choose the type of paintball guns you’re going to offer as a rental at your field based on which type of play will be available.  If your paintball field is going to be for scenario woodsball type play, consider the Tippmann 98.  These guns are super sturdy, easy to maintain and there are tons of accessories and modifications for them.  Tippmann also offers warranties on all their equipment and they have great customer service.

     If your field is going to cater more for speedball, consider using Spyder paintball guns.  Spyder competition style markers are easy to maintain and super sturdy.  They’re also light and fast enough to compete with the higher dollar guns; but so easy to use, they’re great for beginners.  The best thing about Spyder paintball guns like the Sonix, Xtra or Victor is they’re all very high quality guns but cost less than $100 each.  These guns are a great place to start because they’re so durable and cost the least.

     Another mandatory piece of equipment is protective gear.  To provide the most fun at your field, you must ensure proper safety at all times – industry approved paintball goggles must be worn by every player.  Choose goggles that are light, sturdy and cheap.  The Tippman mask is a good one to start with.  Also check out the Hawkeye paintball goggles by RAP4.  RAP4 is also a solid company and very easy to work with; they will probably be the quickest to offer better pricing when buying in bulk.

     One great way to save a lot of money when purchasing paintball equipment is to buy your gear in a package deal.  For example, the Tippmann 98 Power Pack contains the gun, 9 oz CO2 tank, hopper, and goggles for a much cheaper price than if you purchased these items separately.  You can get an even better deal when you purchase multiple Power Packs for a deeper volume discount.  These packages are also a very convenient way to group your gear together; for example, if you buy 10x Power Packs, you’ve got a complete set – up for ten players ready to go.

     Next, you will need to stock up on paintballs.  If you’re a shroud businessman, paintballs can be a great money maker at your field.  Make paintballs a “must buy” policy at your establishment – “if you want to play on our field, you must use house paintballs.”  Your ability to make money selling paintballs will depend heavily on how good of a deal you can get.  Unfortunately, paintballs are expensive and you’re only going to get the best price markdowns unless you purchase palettes of paintballs (50+ cases).

     This also presents the small dilemma of where you’re going to store your paintball stash.  Paintballs must be stored in climate controlled air or they will go bad, warp and not shoot right.  If you plan on storing your paintballs in the old barn on your field, you’re going to waste a lot of money, not to mention hurt your business.  If the paintballs you sell at your field break inside player’s guns or won’t fly straight because they’ve gone bad, people will not have the best time at your park and won’t want to come back.

     Karnage brand .68 caliber paintballs would be an excellent place to start.  These are probably the best grade/quality for the cheapest price on the market.  They come in several grades (that you can also sell at your field) and the owner is willing to offer great deals on bulk orders.  RAP4’s AG1 and Eco friendly field paintballs are also a great bang for the buck.  Often, you can also get even better deals from a company if you’re going to buy a lot of gear from them – or you’ll be buying a lot all of the time.

     Once you’ve bought your equipment, give your field a field test – make sure it’s fun to play on!  You’ll quickly find however that there’s more to it than just getting to play anytime you want.  In fact, if you’re not business savvy enough, you’re ability to play anytime you want will soon be gone as will all the money you’ve spent!  Be smart by studying every aspect of what it takes to be successful in your business before opening.  A great place to start learning about the business aspect of starting your own paintball field is Part II of this article…. Starting Your Own Paintball Field – Part II... The Business Aspect; found at www.choicepaintballguns.com.

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