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My Struggle to Open a Field


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#1 Huff n Puff

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 07:55 PM

So I'm doing a small rant on my struggle for the past few years. Mainly I just got screwed again and want to let the interwebs know. You also get to learn of stupid/costly things I've done.

First off, here is the paintball situation in my area. It's almost non existent because of a lack of organization. When I first started my quest about 5 years ago there was one poorly run field. The place was never taken care of and the customers were not cared for. Needless to say, the owner of that field turned a lot of people away from his field because of the terrible playing conditions. I remember, towards the end of the field's operation, several of us would show up three hours before opening to try and repair the air bunkers best we could before opening. We would then grab lunch and play. Even with our work, we could play two games back to back before having to re-inflate half the field. This continued for several months before we said "fuck it." and quit the place. I'm still amazed that with everything Montana players go through 406's Finest just took 1st in Dallas for D3 race to 2. Anyways, that place closed and I don't see him trying to open back up anytime soon.
There are still a lot of people who want to play in this area, but because of no real organization to bring them together, it doesn't happen.



I have been successful in opening, but not being able to keep open two fields so far. The first was an outdoor field that I was very stupid with. I had inherited some land near Billings (where I live) and decided to open a field there. What I learned is that people weren't willing to drive that far out of town to play paintball. It was a valuable lesson in understanding my market. So I closed down so I could quit spending way to much money to keep in operating.
After this I had the epiphany that a professionally run indoor paintball field could do well here. Billings is a small city that lacks recreation, and just fun things to do, especially at night and during the winter. So began my quest to open an indoor field.
At this point it is 2010. The first place I go to was promising. Just barely outside of town and just off the interstate and directly in the pathway of city growth. Also, directly next to a planned interchange. I was going to lease the property. After dealing with the owners for about 3 months of the realtor and owners hardly responding to me, I finally got a lease in front of me. Let's just say it was terrible. An absolute "screw you" in legal terms. So I moved on.
I then found a building in a town next to the City of Billings. It was bigger than I was expecting. The owner didn't want much for rent. He was already in the process of making improvements to the HVAC systems and doing new bathrooms. This was great. Then, three days before signing the lease, another business came to the owner, offered him more money and a 5 year longer lease. I didn't think I could compete with their offer, so they got the building instead.
I don't know how many building owners and realtors I talked to after that. But the general summary is that people don't want a paintball field in their building, or owners want the same $/psf as a nice retail location regardless that they have a warehouse and not a retail store front. But then, in January 2011, I found a place that wanted a sensible rent price and open to a paintball field. It was also on the outskirts of downtown Billings.
This is where I learned my lesson about the Building Official of the City of Billings. To quote him, "I am not in the business of community development." I had received a temporary business license from the city and was never informed that there may be any major complications from the city (I'm obviously being brief here). After spending about $20,000, signed a lease, etc. I was told I could not continue until I fixed several issues with the building. Most were easily do-able and not a problem except for energy efficiency. It was determined that I needed have my building meet current day building code. Most buildings in this part of town were built during WWII and nowhere near meet current energy code. Because of the building's construction I would have had to spend an estimated $120,000+ on the building that I was leasing. Needless to say the landlord was nice and let me out of my lease and I tucked my tail and walked away.
What was most painful was I had started advertising by this point and had weekday appointments booked several months out. The phone number for that location is also my current cell phone number and I'm still getting calls on a weekly basis from people asking about hours and appointments. I don't know why they are calling because the website isn't in operation and the FB page says the field is closed.
Now armed with the knowledge of how to meet the city's requirements, I continued my quest.
Around this time the nasty outdoor field finally closed down. This lack of places to play was the final nail in the coffin for the local shop as well. So all at once there was no longer a way to easily reach most people who wanted to paintball.

I quit being as picky and decided I would also look at leasing land nearby to start an outdoor field if the rent would be cheap. In this area there is a lot of horse pasture type land. It's flat, not much there, and really only good for running horses. I found out how few people want to rent their land, especially considering the amount of "For Sale" signs on these properties. Paintballers still hassle me saying "why don't you ask some of these people who have for sale signs everywhere" when I tell them I'm trying to find a place for a field. Then they come back to me in a month and tell me that they didn't think it would be that hard.

Talking with a different realtor I found a property last month. A desperate owner, cheap rent, and in the neighboring town rather than the City of Billings. The owner says he doesn't care what goes in the building as long as it is legal. So I call up the architect I had worked with before and made some appointments with the building official/fire marshal of this town. He was very open to me using this building and because they are trying to fill some of their old buildings he won't worry about the energy efficiency of the building and even makes some concessions in a couple other areas. All was better than expected. So I make my first official lease offer to the owner of the building and I hear nothing. Not only that, the realtor can't get a hold of him. The guy just dropped off the face of the planet. He lives in Hawaii so it's not like we can go knock on his door and ask what's going on.

That was a couple weeks ago and the realtor has suggested we look for another place. I am furious because, not only am I continuing to spend money on this shit, but I got so goddamn close. I'm pretty much at the end here. I have a passion for paintball but it seems like it is wasted in this state. Hell, I'm at the point where I'm thinking of leaving this place even though I really do enjoy the town itself. But I am determined to try and open my own business but there aren't many opportunities for businesses that don't already have a saturated market. Also, I have a storage unit and garage full of a paintball field (rentals, netting, bunkers, fill station, tables, etc.)

#2 spqr-king

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 08:16 PM

Well I give you my prayers sir sounds like you have tried very hard to promote the sport in your area and have spend more money then most would be willing to in the sport which you love. I wish you nothing but the best and must say you have balls the size of melons because I would have quit 2 paragraphs ago... You sir are a true baller! Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

PS keep on trucking if you really want it to happen great things come to those who wait is the saying I guess...

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#3 ZzBrutality

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 08:22 PM

Wow, you have heart man. Keep it up, you'll get there!

#4 Poopfairy35

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 09:26 PM

Not much I can do but tell you to keep going. My only real tip would be to move to a different state.
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#5 Syrellaris

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 09:36 PM

Come to the netherlands ;) Belgium / The Netherlands and even Close German players could realle use a nother Sup'air field around here :P

But in all seriousness, It sucks to hear you have such a hard time finding a place. I do hope you will find something in the end near the place you want it to be. People that are passionate and keep going will eventually be rewarded. I think you fit in the catagory as well :)

#6 cybermaniac15

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 01:08 AM

That's terrible.. :/

Best of luck finding a space though.

#7 tallsmallboy44

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 06:16 AM

I would try to find some family from the last guy, they might know how to get into contact with him, or at the very least know what happened to him.

fuck yolo
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#8 elraido

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 11:53 AM

The first rule of opening a field to make money. Don't.

You have the passion and drive and the right intentions for the sport. That is one of the main things someone who wants to run a paintball field needs. The other thing someone needs, is the right piece of land in the right location. You can't be out in the middle of nowhere. Where we play, at land my family owns, we get around 20-30 people once a month to play. We half way talk about how much fun it would be to set up a commercial field out there, but we all know the location would kill it before it even got off the ground. Especially if we charged people to play there. The land is great, lots of different types of terrain....can have 3-4 woodsball courses. a speedball field etc (80 acres). But it is so far out, people wouldn't be able to find it very easily. The place where we used to play at, it was perfect. It was halfway in between our two major towns here (15 min each town) on an interstate road. The land wasn't the greatest, but he took care of it. He expanded. He adapted to what people were playing (he had hyperball, woodsball, a nice proshop, lockers, etc). He made enough money to just keep sinking it into his business to make it better. He was also broke because of it. But it was something he loved to do. If you can do that, I think you will be fine.

#9 spqr-king

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 12:40 PM

There are a ton of fields literally out in the middle of nowhere people will travel to play paintball I dont think thats the problem... I mean hell OXCC is hosting MAO and its literally no where near anything...

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#10 elraido

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 01:20 PM

There are a ton of fields literally out in the middle of nowhere people will travel to play paintball I dont think thats the problem... I mean hell OXCC is hosting MAO and its literally no where near anything...


You don't know the difference between middle of no where east coast and the middle of no where MN or Montana (where he is). The closest paintball field to me is 75 miles away. From what I can tell, it looks like OCXX is only 40-50 miles from Baltimore AND Philadelphia....with another town only 5 miles away. An hours drive for an extremely high quality paintball field isn't a huge ordeal. Heck, like I said, we have to drive 20 miles (some people 40 miles) one way to get to our outlaw field). Location is still huge.

#11 Adam_M

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 03:55 PM

If you do ever look at moving may I suggest batavia new York it's a reasonable sized place with a city and town of a combined population of approximately 30,000 and growing with a lot of recent commercial development it's a great place to start a business, hell it was even named best micropolitan city of America for the ninth year in a row for 2012. However everyone and their brother says there is simply nothing to do around here. We do have one outdoor field that sounds a lot like the field you described in that the owner could care less about his customers and not to mention the harsh winters so he closes for half of the year. If we could get someone with the ambition to provide for their community like you have to open a quality indoor field here that would be amazing. Just thought I'd mention it since you said you might even look to leaving your town

#12 Syrellaris

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 06:40 PM


There are a ton of fields literally out in the middle of nowhere people will travel to play paintball I dont think thats the problem... I mean hell OXCC is hosting MAO and its literally no where near anything...


You don't know the difference between middle of no where east coast and the middle of no where MN or Montana (where he is). The closest paintball field to me is 75 miles away. From what I can tell, it looks like OCXX is only 40-50 miles from Baltimore AND Philadelphia....with another town only 5 miles away. An hours drive for an extremely high quality paintball field isn't a huge ordeal. Heck, like I said, we have to drive 20 miles (some people 40 miles) one way to get to our outlaw field). Location is still huge.


The closest Sup'air field here in the netherlands for me is a 2 and a half hour drive..and the netherlands is a small country considering you can drive from one end to the other in less then 3 hours.

#13 Ironchefxingba

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 06:48 PM



There are a ton of fields literally out in the middle of nowhere people will travel to play paintball I dont think thats the problem... I mean hell OXCC is hosting MAO and its literally no where near anything...


You don't know the difference between middle of no where east coast and the middle of no where MN or Montana (where he is). The closest paintball field to me is 75 miles away. From what I can tell, it looks like OCXX is only 40-50 miles from Baltimore AND Philadelphia....with another town only 5 miles away. An hours drive for an extremely high quality paintball field isn't a huge ordeal. Heck, like I said, we have to drive 20 miles (some people 40 miles) one way to get to our outlaw field). Location is still huge.


The closest Sup'air field here in the netherlands for me is a 2 and a half hour drive..and the netherlands is a small country considering you can drive from one end to the other in less then 3 hours.


Oxcc is only 30-40 minutes from me I make the trip frequently, have 1 field 10 minutes from me and P.A.P.S. is only about an hour and half from me, 3 good fields within an hour and a half i feel lucky.
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#14 Huff n Puff

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 01:44 AM

Thank you for the support.

I do want to address the comment of making money. This is something that I have heard on forums by a lot of people over the years. Really that isn't the right wording. It's really not expecting to make MUCH money. A paintball field is still a business and needs to be treated as such. If I didn't think I could make a living (I am a simple person) and have money left to put back into the business, I wouldn't follow the idea. I remember an article written on John Amodea's (PaintballX3) blog after the collapse of Pacific Paintball (NPPL, PB2X, etc.). One of the points he made about turning paintball around is for field owners to quit making it their weekend hobby. They need to treat it as a real business because that's what will drive them to make a field experience that is better for their customers. Doing this will result in growing the game.I really do agree with him on this point.
The other main part is not thinking of it as a paintball field. Too many people think of paintball as this magical game that doesn't apply to the rest of the world. It is a recreational activity, or to be more specific, a "shooter-tag" sport. The surrounding area has a population aprox 140,000 people. In that area there are not many activities, especially at night and during the winter. There are three bowling alleys, three theaters, a hotel with a couple indoor water slides, one skate rink, one mini golf/laser tag/go-kart place (laster tag being the only wintertime activity), and one indoor firing range.

It is because of these reasons, I want to open an indoor field and shop. It meets a recreational need in this area. I have actually gone to an accounting professor at the college who, years ago, co-owned a field in Texas and was part of the original Houston Heat. He, along with the local economic development council, agree that I have a solid business idea that has a good chance of success as long as I can find the right priced building. And that is my issue, the building. I also know there is a good chance of success because during the time I had the temporary business license I was allowed to be in operation. It was only 2.5 weeks, but during that time I had about 180 participants. The break even point for me was about 90 to 100 participants per month (and I factor my wage into the break even point).


And yes, location is huge. That was the major problem with my first field (which was done more as a hobby than a business). It was too far out.


If I were to move out of state, I doubt I would open a field. I'm not sure I would be able to properly assess a different type of area to know if opening a field is a good idea. But I wouldn't mind keeping with the paintball industry. Always toyed with the idea of applying for some of the various companies whenever I see the rare occurrence of them hiring, but never did cause I've been so stuck on trying to make a field work.

Edited by Huff n Puff, 21 March 2013 - 01:50 AM.


#15 PBphilosopher

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 02:54 AM

1. Find out who owns the land the other field was on and get a short term lease on that.
2. Get the field in working condition asap.
3. You can be building your client base immediately.
4. After this is when you look for a great indoor location. In real estate, the desperate person always loses out. (Realtor for 2 decades) You have all spring summer and fall to find a place.
5. Make sure to sell retail items out of the field if there is no shop in town. Worst case, you could have catalogs there and fill the orders by the following weekend. (no inventory required)

#16 elraido

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 09:02 AM

Thank you for the support.

I do want to address the comment of making money. This is something that I have heard on forums by a lot of people over the years. Really that isn't the right wording. It's really not expecting to make MUCH money. A paintball field is still a business and needs to be treated as such. If I didn't think I could make a living (I am a simple person) and have money left to put back into the business, I wouldn't follow the idea. I remember an article written on John Amodea's (PaintballX3) blog after the collapse of Pacific Paintball (NPPL, PB2X, etc.). One of the points he made about turning paintball around is for field owners to quit making it their weekend hobby. They need to treat it as a real business because that's what will drive them to make a field experience that is better for their customers. Doing this will result in growing the game.I really do agree with him on this point.
The other main part is not thinking of it as a paintball field. Too many people think of paintball as this magical game that doesn't apply to the rest of the world. It is a recreational activity, or to be more specific, a "shooter-tag" sport. The surrounding area has a population aprox 140,000 people. In that area there are not many activities, especially at night and during the winter. There are three bowling alleys, three theaters, a hotel with a couple indoor water slides, one skate rink, one mini golf/laser tag/go-kart place (laster tag being the only wintertime activity), and one indoor firing range.

It is because of these reasons, I want to open an indoor field and shop. It meets a recreational need in this area. I have actually gone to an accounting professor at the college who, years ago, co-owned a field in Texas and was part of the original Houston Heat. He, along with the local economic development council, agree that I have a solid business idea that has a good chance of success as long as I can find the right priced building. And that is my issue, the building. I also know there is a good chance of success because during the time I had the temporary business license I was allowed to be in operation. It was only 2.5 weeks, but during that time I had about 180 participants. The break even point for me was about 90 to 100 participants per month (and I factor my wage into the break even point).


And yes, location is huge. That was the major problem with my first field (which was done more as a hobby than a business). It was too far out.


If I were to move out of state, I doubt I would open a field. I'm not sure I would be able to properly assess a different type of area to know if opening a field is a good idea. But I wouldn't mind keeping with the paintball industry. Always toyed with the idea of applying for some of the various companies whenever I see the rare occurrence of them hiring, but never did cause I've been so stuck on trying to make a field work.


Sounds like you are approaching this the right way. The guy who ran the one near us, like I said, he dumped every penny he was earning back into the field....and he also had enough to build a new house (himself doing a LOT of the work). He was investing back into the company to keep it fresh and keep people coming in. He didn't have an indoor field, and like you guys, we get a lot of cold and a lot of snow in the winter so people didn't play much at all then (C02 was the main thing people used, HPA was still very expensive).

Obviously the main sources of income you are going to have coming in are season passes and paint sales, but it sounds like you have a solid business plan in place....you found your customer price point and how many people you need. Personally, I would go with how you are doing it. Find that indoor field first. That will establish you in a more densely populated area and get the name out and it will provide year round income. Then IF you wanted an outdoor field, then people will know your reputation and go from there. But if that happens odds are you will need to hire help.

#17 Huff n Puff

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 06:47 PM

1. Find out who owns the land the other field was on and get a short term lease on that.
2. Get the field in working condition asap.
3. You can be building your client base immediately.
4. After this is when you look for a great indoor location. In real estate, the desperate person always loses out. (Realtor for 2 decades) You have all spring summer and fall to find a place.
5. Make sure to sell retail items out of the field if there is no shop in town. Worst case, you could have catalogs there and fill the orders by the following weekend. (no inventory required)


I do consider this good advise. Problem is step 1&2. People don't know his field as "Diamond Paintball," instead it was (and this is a real quote) "That dump on the way to Roundup." I also don't consider the field playable. A lot has to do with how he trashed the place when he left, but also the hazards that are almost impossible to get out of the place. For example, there is broken glass embedded in the ground where the airball field was (if you are now piecing together the reason why the bunkers leaked, you are about halfway there). I don't know how many injuries happened in the time that place was open due to those hazards, but it was an unacceptable amount. Sadly he really hurt the reputation of paintball, and eliminated a large area where I could put a field simply because he had a mess of a field and almost no safety procedures.

I'm about to call a guy that I talked to a couple years ago about renting his building, but after some discussion he said no. I will see if maybe a couple more years (on top of the original four) of his building being vacant might change his opinion.

#18 spqr-king

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 12:09 PM


There are a ton of fields literally out in the middle of nowhere people will travel to play paintball I dont think thats the problem... I mean hell OXCC is hosting MAO and its literally no where near anything...


You don't know the difference between middle of no where east coast and the middle of no where MN or Montana (where he is). The closest paintball field to me is 75 miles away. From what I can tell, it looks like OCXX is only 40-50 miles from Baltimore AND Philadelphia....with another town only 5 miles away. An hours drive for an extremely high quality paintball field isn't a huge ordeal. Heck, like I said, we have to drive 20 miles (some people 40 miles) one way to get to our outlaw field). Location is still huge.


Damn... and I thought a 45 minute drive was bad thats crazy and the town 5 miles away is where my dad lives its nothing really lol I have never been past west texas. Guess it all depends on who you are I grew up in Delaware everything is 20 minutes away because the state is so small lol so thats what im used to anything longer feels like an eternity...

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#19 PBphilosopher

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 12:50 PM


1. Find out who owns the land the other field was on and get a short term lease on that.
2. Get the field in working condition asap.
3. You can be building your client base immediately.
4. After this is when you look for a great indoor location. In real estate, the desperate person always loses out. (Realtor for 2 decades) You have all spring summer and fall to find a place.
5. Make sure to sell retail items out of the field if there is no shop in town. Worst case, you could have catalogs there and fill the orders by the following weekend. (no inventory required)


I do consider this good advise. Problem is step 1&2. People don't know his field as "Diamond Paintball," instead it was (and this is a real quote) "That dump on the way to Roundup." I also don't consider the field playable. A lot has to do with how he trashed the place when he left, but also the hazards that are almost impossible to get out of the place. For example, there is broken glass embedded in the ground where the airball field was (if you are now piecing together the reason why the bunkers leaked, you are about halfway there). I don't know how many injuries happened in the time that place was open due to those hazards, but it was an unacceptable amount. Sadly he really hurt the reputation of paintball, and eliminated a large area where I could put a field simply because he had a mess of a field and almost no safety procedures.

I'm about to call a guy that I talked to a couple years ago about renting his building, but after some discussion he said no. I will see if maybe a couple more years (on top of the original four) of his building being vacant might change his opinion.


Have you tried loopnet.com? A lot of the commercial realtors out here use it to list properties for lease. You check on there and sometimes you can deal direct with the owner. Or negotiate half of the commission to be paid to yourself. Another thing, Realtors are often highly emotional and set in their ways I (as a Realtor) always try eliminate them from the equation as much as possible. Any stigmatized thing like paintball they may advise their clients to be wary.

You may present any potential owner with a summary of major objections like "Isn't this dangerous"
You could show this: http://www.astm.org/...AL/F1777-97.htm
and how you plan to comply with them, also some documentation on your insurance from a reputable insurer.
http://www.paint-bal...fety_report.htm

How to talk to the owner:

Tell the Realtor you are old fashioned and would like to present the offer in person. This may not be possible, but try. Tell them if you are going to be doing business with them you want to meet them. etc...

#20 Huff n Puff

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 02:53 AM



1. Find out who owns the land the other field was on and get a short term lease on that.
2. Get the field in working condition asap.
3. You can be building your client base immediately.
4. After this is when you look for a great indoor location. In real estate, the desperate person always loses out. (Realtor for 2 decades) You have all spring summer and fall to find a place.
5. Make sure to sell retail items out of the field if there is no shop in town. Worst case, you could have catalogs there and fill the orders by the following weekend. (no inventory required)


I do consider this good advise. Problem is step 1&2. People don't know his field as "Diamond Paintball," instead it was (and this is a real quote) "That dump on the way to Roundup." I also don't consider the field playable. A lot has to do with how he trashed the place when he left, but also the hazards that are almost impossible to get out of the place. For example, there is broken glass embedded in the ground where the airball field was (if you are now piecing together the reason why the bunkers leaked, you are about halfway there). I don't know how many injuries happened in the time that place was open due to those hazards, but it was an unacceptable amount. Sadly he really hurt the reputation of paintball, and eliminated a large area where I could put a field simply because he had a mess of a field and almost no safety procedures.

I'm about to call a guy that I talked to a couple years ago about renting his building, but after some discussion he said no. I will see if maybe a couple more years (on top of the original four) of his building being vacant might change his opinion.


Have you tried loopnet.com? A lot of the commercial realtors out here use it to list properties for lease. You check on there and sometimes you can deal direct with the owner. Or negotiate half of the commission to be paid to yourself. Another thing, Realtors are often highly emotional and set in their ways I (as a Realtor) always try eliminate them from the equation as much as possible. Any stigmatized thing like paintball they may advise their clients to be wary.

You may present any potential owner with a summary of major objections like "Isn't this dangerous"
You could show this: http://www.astm.org/...AL/F1777-97.htm
and how you plan to comply with them, also some documentation on your insurance from a reputable insurer.
http://www.paint-bal...fety_report.htm

How to talk to the owner:

Tell the Realtor you are old fashioned and would like to present the offer in person. This may not be possible, but try. Tell them if you are going to be doing business with them you want to meet them. etc...


I am using loopnet. It's been helpful to try and narrow down more places. I do prefer dealing direct with owners, but with this last building I think I found a good realtor. Mid 30s guy who really did seem enthusiastic and tried to help me out.

I should say, owners are not the major problem. I mentioned a couple because they really irritated me. Mostly the safety thing isn't even asked (although it might be because I address it when first meeting with them). But the main issue is the city of Billings. The building official is super strict. I cannot take over just any warehouse and use it. Unless it is already an A3 Assembly occupancy code, I will have to meet building code as if I were building new. Most warehouses here were built 40+ years ago, and most with brick walls and only small (R19ish) amount of insulation in the roof. Usually they are not built to accept the current day energy efficiency standards. A lot require me to drop in a ceiling and build out from the brick walls to meet the energy efficiency code. Those improvements drive away most owners. The real sad thing is the city has a lot of empty warehouses, and they continue to sit there.
Because of Billings, I really would like to open in the nearby town of Laurel. It's about 10-15 minutes away but the building official/fire marshal is a lot more open to getting businesses up and running. For example, the last building where the owner dropped off the face of the planet (he lives in Hawaii so I can't really knock on his door) I had the blessing from the building official. I had shown him the plans I had my architect draw up and he compromised and said the energy efficiency of the building was close enough as is. He is a nice guy who wants to see more businesses opening up in his town so he makes reasonable accommodations.

#21 PBphilosopher

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 03:19 AM




1. Find out who owns the land the other field was on and get a short term lease on that.
2. Get the field in working condition asap.
3. You can be building your client base immediately.
4. After this is when you look for a great indoor location. In real estate, the desperate person always loses out. (Realtor for 2 decades) You have all spring summer and fall to find a place.
5. Make sure to sell retail items out of the field if there is no shop in town. Worst case, you could have catalogs there and fill the orders by the following weekend. (no inventory required)


I do consider this good advise. Problem is step 1&2. People don't know his field as "Diamond Paintball," instead it was (and this is a real quote) "That dump on the way to Roundup." I also don't consider the field playable. A lot has to do with how he trashed the place when he left, but also the hazards that are almost impossible to get out of the place. For example, there is broken glass embedded in the ground where the airball field was (if you are now piecing together the reason why the bunkers leaked, you are about halfway there). I don't know how many injuries happened in the time that place was open due to those hazards, but it was an unacceptable amount. Sadly he really hurt the reputation of paintball, and eliminated a large area where I could put a field simply because he had a mess of a field and almost no safety procedures.

I'm about to call a guy that I talked to a couple years ago about renting his building, but after some discussion he said no. I will see if maybe a couple more years (on top of the original four) of his building being vacant might change his opinion.


Have you tried loopnet.com? A lot of the commercial realtors out here use it to list properties for lease. You check on there and sometimes you can deal direct with the owner. Or negotiate half of the commission to be paid to yourself. Another thing, Realtors are often highly emotional and set in their ways I (as a Realtor) always try eliminate them from the equation as much as possible. Any stigmatized thing like paintball they may advise their clients to be wary.

You may present any potential owner with a summary of major objections like "Isn't this dangerous"
You could show this: http://www.astm.org/...AL/F1777-97.htm
and how you plan to comply with them, also some documentation on your insurance from a reputable insurer.
http://www.paint-bal...fety_report.htm

How to talk to the owner:

Tell the Realtor you are old fashioned and would like to present the offer in person. This may not be possible, but try. Tell them if you are going to be doing business with them you want to meet them. etc...


I am using loopnet. It's been helpful to try and narrow down more places. I do prefer dealing direct with owners, but with this last building I think I found a good realtor. Mid 30s guy who really did seem enthusiastic and tried to help me out.

I should say, owners are not the major problem. I mentioned a couple because they really irritated me. Mostly the safety thing isn't even asked (although it might be because I address it when first meeting with them). But the main issue is the city of Billings. The building official is super strict. I cannot take over just any warehouse and use it. Unless it is already an A3 Assembly occupancy code, I will have to meet building code as if I were building new. Most warehouses here were built 40+ years ago, and most with brick walls and only small (R19ish) amount of insulation in the roof. Usually they are not built to accept the current day energy efficiency standards. A lot require me to drop in a ceiling and build out from the brick walls to meet the energy efficiency code. Those improvements drive away most owners. The real sad thing is the city has a lot of empty warehouses, and they continue to sit there.
Because of Billings, I really would like to open in the nearby town of Laurel. It's about 10-15 minutes away but the building official/fire marshal is a lot more open to getting businesses up and running. For example, the last building where the owner dropped off the face of the planet (he lives in Hawaii so I can't really knock on his door) I had the blessing from the building official. I had shown him the plans I had my architect draw up and he compromised and said the energy efficiency of the building was close enough as is. He is a nice guy who wants to see more businesses opening up in his town so he makes reasonable accommodations.


It's a shame that Billings is that way. They choose energy inefficient empty buildings over a store that would provide much needed entertainment to their community.

#22 Vhyrus

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 04:08 PM

I have some experience that might give you some help in getting your field a reality. First a little about me. I have been playing paintball since 1996. I started when I was 15 years old and for almost 10 of those 15 years it was my life. I have not only worked as a paintball ref at one of the biggest indoor fields in the country (westworld paintball in Phoenix) but I successfully started a grassroots outlaw ball group in my old town when I got pissed at the local field.

My first suggestion would be to attempt to get an outlaw ball group going in order to keep a customer base alive in your area. The biggest thing here is you'll need a group that you can basically trust to not be dicks to each other and will play by the rules for the most part. Logistically your biggest obstacle is air. When I ran my outlaw ball this was back in 03 when most people used C02 and it wasn't a big deal to fill tanks. Since most people now use air you are going to have to get some scuba tanks together and put a fill station up. You can bring paint to sell or charge for air but since it is outlaw ball you'll have to make paint purchases optional. You can also bring a few rental sets as well. You can also use this to sell to the players if you see they need new gear just casually bring it up. Outlaw ball is kind of a grey area in terms of legality but at least for the short term it is an option.

As someone who has worked at an indoor field before I can tell you flat out that indoor fields are at least 10 times more work than outdoor fields. You can't just hose everything off and be good. At westworld we had to go in every Tuesday and clean the field for like 4 hours. We had to rake all the shells , wipe down all the bunkers, clean the staging area, etc. It was a lot of work. I don't know what the stipulations of your lease will look like but I don't know how many building owners will be okay with the amount of mess a paintball place entails. Be very careful about that.

My final point concerns your problems with the local building inspector. It seems like that is a major obstacle in your path. My best recommendation would be to talk to city council members about your situation. Explain that a paintball field doesn't work like a normal retail business. Show them what you have and what you are willing to do to make it happen and offer a reasonable alternative to the current statutes. Maybe they would be willing to change the law, or at least set up an exemption for you. In this economy it would be foolish for any city to needlessly obstruct a lawful business owner from bringing money into the community. Bring that point up to them. Money talks, especially to politicians. Also point out that a lot of young voters and future voters would be in your customer base and would be very thankful to someone who helped them get their field open.

I hope my points have helped give you some ideas to make this work.

#23 Huff n Puff

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 05:49 PM

I have some experience that might give you some help in getting your field a reality. First a little about me. I have been playing paintball since 1996. I started when I was 15 years old and for almost 10 of those 15 years it was my life. I have not only worked as a paintball ref at one of the biggest indoor fields in the country (westworld paintball in Phoenix) but I successfully started a grassroots outlaw ball group in my old town when I got pissed at the local field.

My first suggestion would be to attempt to get an outlaw ball group going in order to keep a customer base alive in your area. The biggest thing here is you'll need a group that you can basically trust to not be dicks to each other and will play by the rules for the most part. Logistically your biggest obstacle is air. When I ran my outlaw ball this was back in 03 when most people used C02 and it wasn't a big deal to fill tanks. Since most people now use air you are going to have to get some scuba tanks together and put a fill station up. You can bring paint to sell or charge for air but since it is outlaw ball you'll have to make paint purchases optional. You can also bring a few rental sets as well. You can also use this to sell to the players if you see they need new gear just casually bring it up. Outlaw ball is kind of a grey area in terms of legality but at least for the short term it is an option.

As someone who has worked at an indoor field before I can tell you flat out that indoor fields are at least 10 times more work than outdoor fields. You can't just hose everything off and be good. At westworld we had to go in every Tuesday and clean the field for like 4 hours. We had to rake all the shells , wipe down all the bunkers, clean the staging area, etc. It was a lot of work. I don't know what the stipulations of your lease will look like but I don't know how many building owners will be okay with the amount of mess a paintball place entails. Be very careful about that.

My final point concerns your problems with the local building inspector. It seems like that is a major obstacle in your path. My best recommendation would be to talk to city council members about your situation. Explain that a paintball field doesn't work like a normal retail business. Show them what you have and what you are willing to do to make it happen and offer a reasonable alternative to the current statutes. Maybe they would be willing to change the law, or at least set up an exemption for you. In this economy it would be foolish for any city to needlessly obstruct a lawful business owner from bringing money into the community. Bring that point up to them. Money talks, especially to politicians. Also point out that a lot of young voters and future voters would be in your customer base and would be very thankful to someone who helped them get their field open.

I hope my points have helped give you some ideas to make this work.


I know the mess, I've met with several field owners about how they deal with it. And during my brief stint of the first indoor field opening I dealt with it. Quick clean was done after hours on Saturday and Sunday, cleaning bunkers and still semi-whole balls. Monday is deep clean with a steam cleaner with no heat (worked well with the geotextile flooring I used). I make sure the owners know that paintball causes a mess, but I have these procedures in place to let them know what will be done about the mess. I'm still surprised at how little concern most of the owners have had for cleanliness, but then again most places I go to are old warehouses that have been vacant for multiple years. I know issues will come up related to cleaning and many other issues unique to an indoor field. Cleanliness is a big issue for me, I don't think enough indoor (and sadly outdoor) fields take it seriously enough. It is a messy game but it doesn't mean the place has to look nasty to the customers.

If you don't mind telling me, what specifically did you do to try and keep paint fill from building up in your flooring surface? Maybe you have an extra trick that would be helpful.


I am trying to keep the outlaw ball alive to keep people playing. There are just many difficulties keeping in touch and more importantly reaching out to new people. Unfortunately advertising isn't really feasible for this situation. There is actually a FB group started to help coordinate games. I do run air at the games. I drive a small pickup with a bulk cylinder rack in the bed, so I rent a bulk HPA bottle from a local gas supply company and run fills off it and charge people a little. I still have all my rental HPA tanks so if somebody has CO2 I just let them borrow the tank as long as they pay for the air.

Unfortunately, after meeting with others who have been burnt by this issue for their various different businesses, I didn't even bother going to the City Council. As I found out from those who tried, the council doesn't feel it's an issue they have control over. Mostly because it's not a city level law. It's how the building official is interpreting a state level law. So I talked to multiple lawyers and every one of them said to not bother the chances of me winning are almost non existent because all the Building Official is doing is going by the strictest interpretation of the law, aka nothing illegal about what he is doing.

At least the last owner I talked to, who is in that same small nearby town, is considering my proposal. He said no two years ago, but after two more years on top of the original 5 years of it sitting vacant might have changed his mind. His is actually a large retail location but since a Wal-Mart was built a few blocks away no new retail businesses that need that big of a building have come in. Well except for a couple chain automotive places that built on the vacant land next to Wal-Mart.

Edited by Huff n Puff, 24 March 2013 - 05:50 PM.


#24 dosh

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 05:55 PM

If the oficial is the problem then go to the city council and pleade your case. Point out the bottle neck he's creating and the empty floorspace. That's tax and licsensing revenue the city is losing. There might be pressure from higher up that can get him to be a little more lenient.

Barring that take another run at the outdoor field but bypass the realtor. Unused land is generally owned by someone, you just need to find out who. Go to the county or city courthouse and find out who owns the land. Knock on the guys door and talk to him directly.

Really from what you've posted it sounds like you are rigidly following the normal channels and not working ouside the box.

#25 Huff n Puff

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 07:02 PM

If the oficial is the problem then go to the city council and pleade your case. Point out the bottle neck he's creating and the empty floorspace. That's tax and licsensing revenue the city is losing. There might be pressure from higher up that can get him to be a little more lenient.

Barring that take another run at the outdoor field but bypass the realtor. Unused land is generally owned by someone, you just need to find out who. Go to the county or city courthouse and find out who owns the land. Knock on the guys door and talk to him directly.

Really from what you've posted it sounds like you are rigidly following the normal channels and not working ouside the box.


The official is the problem. He has been the problem for many years, hell I think he has been there for well over a decade. This is a heavily conservative area when it comes to how the local governments operate. Last summer there was a vote to take away the Folf (frisbee golf) course at a local city park, that is mostly used by people folfing. It took several months (I think it was 3 meetings total) with hundreds of letters (god knows how many emails), an article in the paper weekly, a facebook page that reached over 1000 supporters (I checked and they took the page down after the issue was resolved), and packing the city council meetings out the door with supporters before they voted and barely passed putting the course back.

The office to find the address of the owners of land in Yellowstone County is on the 4th floor of courthouse building. Usually pointless to go there because you can follow fences to the persons property, but I have gone there several times to find the owners. Most people who live outside of the city have their "little piece of heaven" aka they don't want anything done with their property. At this point I don't know how many doors I've knocked on, especially when you include the people who have said I haven't done enough so they go and do the same thing. Most people just don't want a paintball field on their property. One of the places we used to play at we had to quit because the neighbor complained that paint was getting into his yard. According to him, somehow paintballs were going over not only our 16ft nets, but also the 25+ft pines about 20ft behind the net and landing in the open pasture that was his property. It's an example of somebody just not wanting a paintball field on or around their property.

I still only consider an outdoor field a bandaid. I want an indoor field because it makes better business sense in this area due to not worrying about weather and daylight. Running it truly as a business where I am dependent upon it is the only way I can afford (not really money, but mostly time) to keep the quality of a field I can be proud of and know will grow the game in this area. Weather is a huge factor, for example. It is sunny and blue skies right now and a few days into spring, problem is about half and hour ago the temp finally reached our high of 33*F. I remember a couple years ago the field in the city about 235 miles away couldn't open until late June because after the freezing temps it kept raining. That means they were only open for 5 months that year. Usually they open in April and run through 1st week of November. That's still a lot of time to be closed.

There's not much outside of the box when dealing with trying to open an indoor field in a city that has some rather stupid people in charge. The only people who have land that are willing to put up a field that I have found are at least a 45 minute drive away with 10 minutes of that on dirt roads. The only two exceptions to that were great locations, easy to get to and no dirt roads. The problem with those two is they were still within Billings zoning jurisdiction and zoned a type of residential property.

#26 dosh

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 08:38 PM

What about farm land? Is there much agriculture around there? Farmers lease land too and typically for not that much. Conversely you might find farmers willing to lease you land if you're giving them a better return than that acre is if they planted it. If I'm not mistaken you guys are in pretty severe drought, so you might could find someone desperate to get some profit off of produce or pasture land. I'm sure you've probably already thought about that though.

I understand what you're saying about an outdoor field, but it at least gets the ball rolling until the indoor field is operational, and you'll probably need to run it in tandem anyway.

#27 Huff n Puff

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 09:23 PM

What about farm land? Is there much agriculture around there? Farmers lease land too and typically for not that much. Conversely you might find farmers willing to lease you land if you're giving them a better return than that acre is if they planted it. If I'm not mistaken you guys are in pretty severe drought, so you might could find someone desperate to get some profit off of produce or pasture land. I'm sure you've probably already thought about that though.

I understand what you're saying about an outdoor field, but it at least gets the ball rolling until the indoor field is operational, and you'll probably need to run it in tandem anyway.


We've been in drought for decades, with an occasional year where we get flooded. It's not the kind of drought where water is rationed, instead it's more that the farmers worry about what kind of yield they will have, and how severe will the fires be this summer. Renting farm and pasture land is something where you need to know the mentality here, it's a regional thing. These guys are farmers, their dads were farmers, their kids will be farmers, etc. They are just in the business of farming or ranching and that's what they do. I ask around all the time when I see unused land, because of the mentality I know it is pointless to ask for a field. Hell, there are some farmers who are now operating fields inside the city because they would rather farm than sell their land for $100,000 per acre.

I'll let you know another thing that I've done. I've run ads asking if anybody has land close to Billings they would like to lease. It's from those few ads I got the two people with land that were zoned residential.


Running two good fields in tandem is a good way to lose money. Two well run fields means extra staff that has to be hired, a lot of extra costs but not much more income. The paintball market here is not big enough yet. I believe that in 3 years with things run right on an indoor field where more new players can be convinced to try, it will be big enough to have an outdoor field as well.

I would be happy to have an outdoor field to run, until getting an indoor open to "get the ball rolling." But again, its the issue of finding the combo of right owner and land.

I want to make sure you don't consider me saying why I can't do this. It is why I haven't been able to yet. Most of the ideas for finding a place are legit ideas, and I have been trying them. It's just they don't work as well as most people think they will.

#28 Syrellaris

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 09:32 PM

Have you thought about getting some squatters to get active around Billing? If they can occupy several empty houses / warehouses around billings this will most likely force the building official to take action and allow people to set up businesses just to prevent these squatter movements coming in.

#29 Huff n Puff

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 09:41 PM

Have you thought about getting some squatters to get active around Billing? If they can occupy several empty houses / warehouses around billings this will most likely force the building official to take action and allow people to set up businesses just to prevent these squatter movements coming in.


Hahahaha. Now there is an idea.

#30 Jawz

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 09:59 PM

come to Canada, please. Otherwise I wish you the best of luck, and If you do get it up and running I will fly to you for your airball field
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#31 Syrellaris

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 10:22 PM


Have you thought about getting some squatters to get active around Billing? If they can occupy several empty houses / warehouses around billings this will most likely force the building official to take action and allow people to set up businesses just to prevent these squatter movements coming in.


Hahahaha. Now there is an idea.



Squatting has forced the government here to add rules to owners of houses, warehouses etc to do something with there property within a certain amount of time. If they didn't the property went to either the Squatter or would be tore down with all the costs being for the owner of the land. Though squatting is now illegal here :(

#32 Vhyrus

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 10:51 PM

If you don't mind telling me, what specifically did you do to try and keep paint fill from building up in your flooring surface? Maybe you have an extra trick that would be helpful.


At Westworld they used red baseball infield dirt. It was very good at trapping paint and all you needed to do was rake the top layer every once in awhile and you were good to go. I, however, would not recommend it as good flooring because it stains everything red. I have seen people use playground sand as well, which works well but gets into everything, including rental guns. You can use astro turf which is very easy to clean and looks nice but does require some cleaning. You can even lay down topsoil and grow REAL grass indoors. Use the fire extinguishing system like a sprinkler system if you know what you are doing. You'll have to get a bagging lawnmower and special lighting though.

I would not recommend any smooth flooring because paint + concrete equals an extremely slippery surface and you are asking for a lawsuit. Depending on how much it costs you could put down a layer of those black foam work mats that pop together like puzzle pieces. You could use the colored blocks to indicate starting zones, dead zones, flag stations, etc. I don't know what kind of money that would cost though but it would be an awesome playing surface if a little more expensive. Also look at the ground up tires they use at playgrounds. There are a lot of options you can look at with various costs and advantages to each (hay, aspen, mulch, ground up tires). Depending on your setup you can try a variety of different substrates if you have multiple fields and see which people like the best.

#33 Huff n Puff

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 05:12 PM


If you don't mind telling me, what specifically did you do to try and keep paint fill from building up in your flooring surface? Maybe you have an extra trick that would be helpful.


At Westworld they used red baseball infield dirt. It was very good at trapping paint and all you needed to do was rake the top layer every once in awhile and you were good to go. I, however, would not recommend it as good flooring because it stains everything red. I have seen people use playground sand as well, which works well but gets into everything, including rental guns. You can use astro turf which is very easy to clean and looks nice but does require some cleaning. You can even lay down topsoil and grow REAL grass indoors. Use the fire extinguishing system like a sprinkler system if you know what you are doing. You'll have to get a bagging lawnmower and special lighting though.

I would not recommend any smooth flooring because paint + concrete equals an extremely slippery surface and you are asking for a lawsuit. Depending on how much it costs you could put down a layer of those black foam work mats that pop together like puzzle pieces. You could use the colored blocks to indicate starting zones, dead zones, flag stations, etc. I don't know what kind of money that would cost though but it would be an awesome playing surface if a little more expensive. Also look at the ground up tires they use at playgrounds. There are a lot of options you can look at with various costs and advantages to each (hay, aspen, mulch, ground up tires). Depending on your setup you can try a variety of different substrates if you have multiple fields and see which people like the best.


The flooring I decided on was a type of geotextile fabric commonly used in construction under pipes that are being laid in ground. I got the idea from an outdoor field in Washington. It does break down a lot quicker than turf, but the cost of it makes replacing it every year the same cost as astroturf when spread out over 10 years. From the sounds of it from that field I should be expecting to replace it every two years, which I consider better value than turf. It's a very odd fabric. It gives surprisingly good traction, but is very easy to slide on.

#34 Jawz

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 06:01 PM



If you don't mind telling me, what specifically did you do to try and keep paint fill from building up in your flooring surface? Maybe you have an extra trick that would be helpful.


At Westworld they used red baseball infield dirt. It was very good at trapping paint and all you needed to do was rake the top layer every once in awhile and you were good to go. I, however, would not recommend it as good flooring because it stains everything red. I have seen people use playground sand as well, which works well but gets into everything, including rental guns. You can use astro turf which is very easy to clean and looks nice but does require some cleaning. You can even lay down topsoil and grow REAL grass indoors. Use the fire extinguishing system like a sprinkler system if you know what you are doing. You'll have to get a bagging lawnmower and special lighting though.

I would not recommend any smooth flooring because paint + concrete equals an extremely slippery surface and you are asking for a lawsuit. Depending on how much it costs you could put down a layer of those black foam work mats that pop together like puzzle pieces. You could use the colored blocks to indicate starting zones, dead zones, flag stations, etc. I don't know what kind of money that would cost though but it would be an awesome playing surface if a little more expensive. Also look at the ground up tires they use at playgrounds. There are a lot of options you can look at with various costs and advantages to each (hay, aspen, mulch, ground up tires). Depending on your setup you can try a variety of different substrates if you have multiple fields and see which people like the best.


The flooring I decided on was a type of geotextile fabric commonly used in construction under pipes that are being laid in ground. I got the idea from an outdoor field in Washington. It does break down a lot quicker than turf, but the cost of it makes replacing it every year the same cost as astroturf when spread out over 10 years. From the sounds of it from that field I should be expecting to replace it every two years, which I consider better value than turf. It's a very odd fabric. It gives surprisingly good traction, but is very easy to slide on.


Not to mention that instead of turf which after about 2 years turns into shit you replace the material you are referring to, sounds good to me bud
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#35 Vhyrus

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 06:25 PM

Do you have a pic/more info on this stuff? Ive never heard of it but it sounds cool.

#36 elraido

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 11:31 AM

Is this the stuff you are talking about?
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#37 Vhyrus

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 02:12 PM

That looks like what we in the southwest call weed paper.

#38 elraido

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 02:30 PM

That looks like what we in the southwest call weed paper.


This stuff is actually used in road construction. It is part of the base of the road. Worked great as bunkers last year. No rips or tears or anything.




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