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Saturday, May 6, 2006

Road Trip to Niagara Tactical Southern Ontario

One evening in May 2006 while traveling some 1200 miles from home on business, I decided to pay a visit to a local paintball field. Niagara Tactical Adventure was a short drive from where I was staying in Niagara Falls and the field, within sight of the QEW, approximately half way between Hamilton and Niagara Falls in southern Ontario Canada, seemed like the great place to shoot some paint. I parked the car donned my Tippmann jersey (I never leave home without it) and went inside to find someone to play with. Tim Smith the friendly owner of Niagara Tactical welcomed me like I was one of his regular players. We hit it off right away and I decided to have a chat before hitting the field.
Tim told me that he owns two fields for a total of 80 acres of paintball fun. The small field (where I was) is eight acres on the site of an old water park and has something for everyone; an indoor field, outdoor airball, outdoor (lit) speedball plus woodsball. I asked Tim how long he had been involved in paintball. He told me that he started playing in 1984 and enjoyed the game so much he bought into the business in 1989. Five years later be bought out his two partners and has been running the show ever since.

Having been around since the "Dark Ages" of paintball I thought Tim might have some special insights into the game that are different from newer field owners. I thought I would jump right into the deep end of the pool so I asked Tim what he thinks is the more popular style of paintball.

Tim Smith - "Originally woodsball was king because quite frankly that's all there was to play. Slowly speedball on smaller woodsball fields began to get popular. Then with the introduction of inflatable bunkers the popularity of airball went through the roof. It seems that slowly woodsball is starting to gain popularity again."

Charon - "How do you see the sport today as compared to 10 or 15 years ago"

TS - "The game is much more popular now. More and younger kids are playing. It's great to see. I played back when the sport was so far underground nobody even knew it existed. Now people know about the game and it continues to grow. Especially airball over the last few years."

Charon - "Why do you think airball's popularity exploded?"

TS - "Airball is an exciting game to watch and to play. It is fast paced and you get instant gratification. You know right away who has won and who has lost. The games are short and everyone gets maximum trigger time. We all like to shoot paintballs. Having pro leagues and players on TV helps promote that style of play also. The younger players have someone to look up to."

Charon - "Why do you think woodsball is becoming popular again?"

TS - "People who played woodsball (the only game there was) in the 80's are coming back to the game and bringing their kids. The only game the parents know is woodsball so that is where they and their kids are playing. I think the second reason is the high quality low cost woodsball equipment now readily available. Walmart and Canadian Tire are selling Tippmann woodsball packages, everything you need in one box. Off the shelf and straight to the field."

Charon - "Who is playing paintball today?"

TS - "Mostly teenage boys but I have never seen such a wide variety of people playing paintball as I do now. Old guys like you and me to moms and teenage girls. It is really great to see all the different types of people enjoying the sport." [17% of the players the night I visited Niagara Tactical were female.]

Charon - "Do you have any concerns about the sport?"

TS - "Paintball, on an organized field, is statistically one of the safest sports in North America. My concern is that someone will get hurt playing Outlaw Ball [paintball played on private property with no rules or supervision] and the entire industry will be pegged as being unsafe. If that happens the government will step in with legislation that will hurt the legitimate field owner."

Charon - "Where do you see the sport going?"

TS - "The future of paintball looks really good. I can see the sport growing and becoming even more popular. TV coverage and pro leagues will only help to broaden the sports popularity."

Charon - "I have to ask. Speedball or woodsball?"

TS - [smiles] "Paintball is paintball. As long as you are safely having fun who cares what you play."

I was enjoying my chat with Tim so much I lost track of time. By the time I realized I came there to play paintball it was dark. Tim loaned me an A-5 and Profiler and out I went to Niagara Tactical's lit speedball field. It was my first time playing at night with lights, it was hard to see, there were long shadows and paint whizzing by that you could hear but not see. It was incredible. I managed to play four or five games before they were going to call it quits for the night.

As I was cleaning up I had a chance to talk and laugh with a few of the players and that is when dawned on me, I felt like I was at my regular field. I was 1200 miles from home, had stepped on to a strange field for the first time and felt completely comfortable. I then realized that be it Mersey Road in Nova Scotia or Niagara Tactical in Ontario the field is not what makes paintball great it's the players you meet along the way.

If you are in the Niagara or Hamilton areas and are looking to shoot some paint at a first class facility with a super bunch of players you have to check out Niagara Tactical Adventure. Call Tim at 905 685-6145 or 800 823-8694 or visit them on the web at www.niagartactical.com

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