About a year ago I put together a list of the local pricing for all of the fields in Charlotte, NC. One reaction I received was surprise that there are actually 8 fields located in Charlotte at all (9 if you include Command Decisions in Statesville, home of Fulda Gap). Another was curiosity about what the fields were like, and whether each field was worth the price. Now that we're almost out of the 2014 season, I think it's worth going through the list again, particularly in light of many changes that have been happening at local fields.
Generally, there are 3 fields due South of Charlotte, 4 fields due East, and 1 field West. Command Decisions is roughly an hour north of the City. The only field that actually sits in the Charlotte city limits is Paintball Paradyes, though Mighty Sports Center is not far away in Stallings/Matthews. Paintball Central and Palmetto Hills are found off the same I-77 exit in Rock Hill - just 2 miles apart.
Here are all of the current field prices today, with a short write-up of each field (Priced lowest to highest, though that does not necessarily match my recommended order).
Case of Paint: $40 for Empire Hotbox, Supposedly Field Paint Only but I've seen first-hand players using BYOP
Palmetto Hills has 3-4 main Woodsball fields and 2 hyperball fields located in the remains of an old golf course. Once known as an airball destination for its prices, the airball field is now filled with plastic carbuoys as hyperball obstacles. This field tends to have a LOT of refs - as many as 8 on a weekend. However, the caliber of their referees are generally lower standard than other area fields. The woods fields seem to be largely left wild and unmanicured while identifier tags are made with colored ribbon - this leads to a remarkably high incidence of kills by friendly fire. On my last visit it was one bad experience after another, as a ref insisted on adjusting velocity on a marker and blew a valve (at home I discovered he had my Kaos-D at roughly 450 psi!) and then my teammates and I were killed by friendly fire in 3 out of 5 games. Crowds run on the higher side, and it's not surprising to see 80 or more on a weekend. There are some minor safety concerns, as netting does not fully surround fields, and at a lake location in particular, a significant amount of exposure is available near the observation hill.
What stands out? You won't be able to miss the field Mama-bear, Fran, who often times seems like the only person putting in much of any effort. A dozen or so average to above-average players frequent this field and travel around the city, so the potential is there for a few good games.
Case of Paint: Honestly don't know, I've never stayed past 500 paintballs. 500 is about $9 for Valken Infinity. Field Paint Only
If you want cheap airball, Glory Road is pretty much your only option. Sponsored by Glory Road Baptist ministries, this field exhibits more conservative christian tendencies than most. Glory Road has demolished their hyperball field, so that leaves just 1 woodsball field and 1 airball field on the premises. This somewhat addresses the strong safety concerns I had with a scary lack of netting between hyperball and staging area. The referees appear to be all volunteers with a handful of adults and a handful of teens. I would put the quality of refs somewhere between Palmetto Hills and the rest of the large fields. The woods field tends to be played very passively by the regular players, and it's not uncommon to crack the other team by an aggressive push to the middle of the field. Despite the fact that Glory Road is home to a number of their Trophimus tournament teams, I would put the quality of player at the field at near-novice levels. This may be one of the only fields in the area that will let children under the age of 10 play due to their insurance model.
What stands out? If you get past the random proselytizing, you'll find that Tony is a pretty smart paintball player and lover of the sport. I believe that women, LGBTQ, and liberals will struggle to sit through his mandatory debriefing to play, though. If you're really eager to play at this field nonetheless, I've heard that the religious stuff takes a back seat when Valken brings their tournament series to town.
Case of Paint: $50 for Empire Heat, Field Paint Only
Can you fight your way to the top of Hamburger Hill? Known for its large elevation changes across the course, BELP is the place to go for a hilly woods experience. Sadly, this field is also pretty well known for being a bit of a ghost town. Bring a group to guarantee enough players.
What stands out? Cool forts and up to 500 feet elevation shift to the top of the field.
Case of Paint: $50 for XO Spectrum, Field Paint Only
Nestled back in some light industrial warehouses and factories, MSC is a game play center for various types of outdoor games including NERF, Laser Tag, and Paintball. Because of the concrete jungle the park sits in, grass is a rarity for all three fields. Mighty Sports has 2 airball fields and 1 urban close quarters combat field. Paint prices are a bit high, and I've never known more than 1 or 2 players to visit with their own gear. The location is more designed to cater to children and birthday parties, and while it doesn't explicitly discriminate against experienced players, it also isn't offering much to encourage skilled regulars. If you want to try a place that seems more like shooting fish in a barrel of mulch, MSC is your place.
What stands out? Check out the human foosball table and the "Tippmann Laser Tag" system. You can find tons of camo inflatables in the covered car port areas.
Case of Paint: $40 for XO Spectrum, $50 for Formula 13, $60 for Empire Premium, BYOP available
If you want the chance to play on a premiere woodsball field, you need to look no further than Boss Paintball. This field attracts above average groups of players and boasts 7-10 different fields of play any given weekend. Fields are fairly well maintained and teams are marked with blue or red duct tape on the arm, so you're not likely to suffer the same concerns of friendly fire like at Palmetto Hills. Crowd sizes can vary between 60 and 100 players on an average weekend, with half or more players bringing their own equipment. The chronograph area includes a skill-intensive shooting gallery with tons of tiny targets to hit. I have noticed an occasional tendency to find metal shavings in my equipment after a day of play, and this has been confirmed by other players on my team. I suspect this means they have a bad filter on their air source. I would recommend always cleaning your equipment after visiting the field. Nonetheless, this is my go-to recommendation for anyone wanting to play in Charlotte, in no small part due to the caliber of Referees that work there. Note for those that wanted to enjoy playing a game of airball on the lighted turf field - Boss has closed their airball field with no plans to re-open it. Similarly, if you were a long-time fan of the New Town course, it was demolished and only halfway repaired before the owner put a moratorium on new layout construction.
What stands out? You've never been humiliated in paintball like you will be when King George decides to take the field. George injured and ultimately lost his right leg in an industrial accident some 30 years ago, but that doesn't stop him from rolling his Ego at high speeds across the field and running to take objectives. More often than not he will choose to run the local shop, but you know you're in trouble when you see him walk out to put on his mask and jersey.
Case of Paint: $62 for a case of Draxxus Field, Field Paint Only (has PBC logo on it)
Do you think you're ready to try out competitive speedball? Then PBC is the place to test your mettle. Prices are a bit high, but there are a number of fields to try in addition to airball courses. Crowds tend to runaround 30 to 40 for a Saturday with a mix of Tippmanns and Electros represented. In addition to the scenario-sized Woods field, PBC has recently added a close quarters / hyperball field called Assault that is the size of two airball fields end-to-end. I wish they had more referees (typically 1 per field with not all fields running concurrently) and I wish they were more strict about chrono enforcement. The place is fairly well known for receiving hot shots unexpectedly. Safety is very good with quality nets in place surrounding every field (except the very far back side of the Mounds field adjacent to the far corner of the property).
What stands out? If you want to play a game of airball that feels just like you're in the PSP, then Paintball Central is the place to go. The facility is very well taken care of, the refs are more than competent, and the bunkers are top notch. You may be paying over $80 to play for a weekend, but you're definitely going to feel like you got your money's worth.
Case of Paint: $60 for Empire Heat, Field Paint Only
Carrying the distinction of being the only field that actually has a Charlotte city address, Paintball Paradyes is a relatively new addition to the local market. Paradyes has two woodsy hyperball fields and a practice shooting gallery. The field seems fairly family oriented but it's convenient location attracts lots of players of varying skill. If you're interested in nighttime play, Paradyes keeps their fields lit for the evenings and terrain is fairly flat to help avoid taking a bad step in the dark.
What stands out? I have to chuckle any time I see the painted wooden cowboys mixed into the bunkers of the Western field. Prices are a bit high but it's hard to argue with the convenience of a short drive to Steele Creek vs. going to Rock Hill or Marshville.
Entry: $34 for entry, air, and 500 paintballs (rentals are free/included)
Air: See above
Case of Paint: $50 for Empire Heat, Field Paint Only
PBK is primarily composed of a main "Town" field (close quarters / hyberball) and woodsy "Assault" field (wooden bunkers on inclined terrain). However, this former frequent-scenario field has a large woods area that can be divided into 3 or more smaller fields. Typically 3 referees watch a group of 20-40 players, and the refs combine friendliness with leadership and competence. The walk from the staging area to many of the fields is a bit longer than most - much like walking from staging to the furthest field at Boss Paintball. If you just want to try your hand at target practice, a large shooting gallery sits next to the staging benches. Because of their pricing structure, this field tends to discourage a lot of regulars, but a local scenario team - the Carolina Sabers - is known to supply Refs to the field and call PBK their home. Sabers players are generally above average and good competition on the days that they play.
What stands out? Right behind the staging area is a pair of close combat chicken coops that are opened up for late afternoon games. Velocity for this frighteningly close combat is turned down to 250 fps, which only makes the sting of a 15 foot shot slightly less painful. It's fast paced fun, though, and definitely worth a try once.
EDIT: Discovered I'd mixed up some of the field paints