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Free sessions give an IC paintball field a chance to expand

BY CARLOS SOSA | JULY 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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When Don Hull and Mike Staub built a paintball field in West Liberty 10 years ago, they had only one intention: to play on it.

Hull and Staub were members of a paintball team and needed a place to practice for tournaments.

"[The field] opened up because we needed a place to play," Staub said. "There wasn't a place in Iowa City, and we already had a retail store."

For the last decade, Velocity Paintball has consisted of two parts. Hull and Staub own a pro shop in Coralville, which sells paintball equipment, and the field at West Liberty, which provides the space to battle.

Owning a pro-shop is a task in it of itself. Maintaining a paintball field, though, requires maintenance and financing.

"We had to pay for our shooting somehow," Hull said. "That was the whole idea to support the field and our tourney play."

The field was originally meant to stay separate from Velocity Paintball, but Hull and Staub quickly realized they needed help paying for the field. So Hull and Staub's practice field turned into a place where people could do more than just practice.

"It developed into more," Hull said. "We're spending more time with the rental groups [kids and adults] now than tournaments."

Paintball is an adrenaline rush. It's a safe and fun way to go to war with another team. Just like in battle, taking a hit doesn't feel good. Teams have to be tactical. Players have to be smart and use the course to their advantage.

"It's a unique experience," Staub said. "There aren't too many activities like it. It's a participation activity as opposed to spectator activity. When you're shooting the paintball guns, you can see the paint hit people — that adds excitement."

Paintball attracts many beginners, and it can be hazardous for some kids to participate. Experienced players could injure a beginner pretty easily.

"[Don and Mike] make sure that the inexperienced players get teamed with experienced players," shop clerk Becky Love said. "So that they can learn where to run, how to hide and to help guide you."

Hull and Staub don't let novices get overwhelmed their first time on the field. It'd be bad for business, and kids might not want to come back, they said. They would lose out on the most important part — having kids come back for more.

Hull and Staub strive to relate with first-time paintballers because they were once in the same position.

"It was something I started doing when I was 16," Staub said. "I learned and got a better understanding of how to play. It's exciting taking information from the field, and it's always fun, win or lose."

By monitoring all the rentals, Hull and Staub are able to create even matches that allow children to have a good time. They aren't under pressure to perform, and the kids can just go out and play.

Hull and Staub's business has expanded enough that they're not simply scraping by to pay for their field. In fact, they offer free try-it-out sessions twice a month to expose Iowans to paintball.

Having events like open walk-on field days is a great way to not only advertise for Velocity Paintball but also to show the sport to kids all around the area. Growing the sport is crucial to the success of both the West Liberty field and paintball in general.

Velocity's next free session will take place July 15, and Hull and Staub are as excited as ever to share their favorite sport with newcomers.

"The [free sessions] help grow the sport, and that's what its all about," Hull said.


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