Ron Fowler said it feels like being hit with a wet towel. Bryan Vasaris said it’s like being snapped with a rubber band or stung by a bee. Being shot by a paintball gun doesn’t sound very fun. So why is paintball one of the fastest growing sports in America, according to the National Sporting Goods Association? “It’s a stress relief, because you can go out and shoot at people and not dangerously hit them,” Vasaris said. “But it’s also being with a group of guys that you like to hang around with.”
The most commonly played paintball game is “capture the flag.” There are rules variations, but the object is for a team to capture the opposing team’s flag while protecting its own. Players eliminate opponents by shooting them with their paintball guns.
The games can be played outside in an open field or forest, or inside at a specially designed facility with inflatable bunkers and other obstacles. “It’s not the hide-and-seek game everyone thinks,” Vasaris said. “It’s really action-packed and fast-paced.” Players use carbon dioxide- or nitrogen-powered guns that fire thin, gelatin capsules filled with non-toxic paint – the “paintballs.”
Vasaris, 22, who has been playing paintball since he was in high school, will be a senior at the University of Cincinnati this year and is the president of the school’s paintball team. He said getting shot isn’t as bad as it seems. “After the first time, I didn’t even think about getting hit,” Vasaris said. “There is such an adrenaline rush that you don’t even feel it.”
For those who want to experience that rush, there are plenty of paintball facilities around Cincinnati. A good place to start for beginners is the Hueston Woods Paintball Club at Hueston Woods State Park.
Tom Arvan, who has been the paintball club’s general manager for 12 years, likes to promote the game to new players. “My personal enjoyment is seeing the kids play and seeing first-time players come off the field with a grin on their face,” Arvan said.
Hueston Woods is open every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and offers two fields, including one that is wooded with some constructed obstacles. The cost to play is $27, which includes a gun, a carbon dioxide tank, 200 paintballs and protective gear. Players who have their own equipment pay $12. The fields are open Monday through Friday by reservation for groups of 15 or more. Arvan said Hueston Woods has catered to birthday parties, bachelor parties, fraternity and sorority parties and corporate outings. “We have had high praises from corporate groups for team-building,” Arvan said. “It’s a game that really fosters some friendship and sportsmanship.”
Arvan said his paintball field is open to players of all skill levels. “Paintball is a sport that isn’t dominated by youth and physical size,” Arvan said. “We’ve had mom, dad, grandma and grandpa out here.”
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