Archive for Monday, April 23, 2007

Ready, aim : SPLAT!

Paintball junkies flock to area park

April 23, 2007


Just over four years ago, Kyle Schuler never had heard of paintball.

Today, he hardly can get enough of it.

"My friend Chris introduced me to it," Schuler, now a 16-year-old Lawrence High student, said. "He told me he played paintball. I really didn't know much about it. I played it, and I got hooked."

Schuler considers his pre-paintball pastimes typical. He rode four-wheelers and dirt bikes, played basketball and football.

But there was just something about paintball he found irresistible.

"It's the friends, the adrenaline rush," Schuler said. "You're able to play games and progress up."

Progress he has.

These days, Schuler travels "all over the place," participating in about a tournament a month, with practices the remaining three weekends a month.

His most recent tournament experience ended in a fifth-place Div. II finish Sunday in the Midwest Paintball Series regional at the Drop Zone Extreme Sports Paintball Park just southwest of Lawrence.

"In a sense, fifth was disappointing," Schuler said. "We were playing so good up to the finals, where we only won one game. We could have beaten every team out there if everything went right, but I'm happy with fifth. It was the first tournament with a new team. We've practiced twice together, so I'm happy with it."

What is paintball?

Paintball is a sport in which players participate in a myriad of games in various settings.

Generally, games involve two opposing teams seeking to complete an objective - like capture the flag or eliminating a specific player, for instance - or to eliminate all of the other team's players.

Players eliminate each other by splattering them with paintballs: spherical gelatin capsules containing dye, propelled by a compressed-gas-powered gun.

An estimated 30 million people in the United States play it, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturer's Association.

Ready, aim, ... SPLAT!!!

Owner Ken Farris talks about his Lawrence-area paintball park. Enlarge video

"Every year it gets busier and busier and more popular," said Reagan Waters, Drop Zone's park director. "It really does appeal to everyone, from corporate groups to church youth groups and birthday parties. Honestly, I think we see so many people come out, especially kids and young adults, because it's fun. It's a real adrenaline-packed sport. A lot of people come out to vent. They show up when we open and don't leave until we close.

"The other reason is, it's a great team-building sport. You don't have to follow a softball or soccer schedule. With paintball, you go whenever it's convenient to you. You don't have to commit to any type of schedule."

The Drop Zone park has five fields on 89 acres. Terrain ranges from "woods" fields to a two-story castle.

This time of year, the park is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, though it also is available at other times for special-occasion rentals.

Waters said packages were available for around $25 a day that included rental of all the necessary equipment.

In the beginning

When Ken Farris opened the Drop Zone park in 1989, he had no idea it would turn into a vocation.

"It was going to be a part-time business while I was going to school and finishing my degree," said Farris, a Lawrence resident. "That's the truth of the matter. I didn't think that far head."

It turns out that Farris was getting in on a good thing at a good time.

After graduating, he decided to try to make a living with paintball. He opened his first Drop Zone Extreme Sports store in Olathe. Then he opened another in Topeka. Then Kansas City, and finally one in Lawrence in 2002.

"This is full-time," Farris said. "We have close to 20 full-time employees and lot of referees."

The latter helps separate Drop Zone's park from other paintball venues.

Farris said there are four commercial parks within a 100-mile radius.

"It's a biased opinion, but I hope it's accurate, but we've been around longer and we do things better than everybody else," Farris said. "We're professional. We run it as a business. It's more than just paying taxes. It's doing everything right.

"A lot of people : they're a hobby field. When they have to start paying somebody or not have their kids running it, they're run out of business. We spend a lot of time training our staff. A lot of people are surprised, 'Paintball, oh, you have referees? Yeah, we have referees, one for every 15 players.' And they're not just watching the rules of the game. They're as much a tour guide as anything else. They're there to make sure everybody's need are taken care of."

In Schuler's mind, at least, the Drop Zone is doing something right.

Though his team practices mostly on a private field, Schuler occasionally participates in team practices at Drop Zone.

"Drop Zone is the best field in the Midwest," he said. "I've been playing there for years. Their attitude is great. Everybody is really nice, really helpful. They do everything they can to be top-notch. They recently leveled the playing field. The whole ground is perfectly level. It's perfect."


Dan Alexander 10 years, 12 months ago

I'm hoping we can get a paintball park in lawrence. Something at Clinton Lake or at the river. Otherwise frisbee golfers beware, for your frisbees are hard but our paintballs are great in numbers.

KyleSchuler 10 years, 12 months ago

um, excuse me "Marion." apparantly you do not know ANYTHING about the sport. How can you say it is a "game of violence?" if you think paintball is a game of violence, then you must think every sport is. look at all the fights happening in basketball, football, soccer, ANY sport out there. statistically, paintball is safer than most any sport out there. so what? you shoot somebody with a "marker" yes, a MARKER, not a GUN. you may get little welts and bruises, but who cares? you get scraped knees, scratches, cuts, broken bones, you get it all in every other sport, so why go talking about paintball like that? it is a very safe sport, and my family and i have enjoyed it since i was 12, so for 4 years now. MY MOM AND DAD LOVE IT! so please, do not go saying it is a "game of violence" when you know nothing about it.

newsreader 10 years, 12 months ago

I could be crazy, but I am thinking that Marion was being sarcastic... lighten up...

KyleSchuler 10 years, 12 months ago

well then i apologize for acting so harsh, but people cant go talking like that about things. it gives paintball a bad name. just like all those kids that go shooting cars and such with paintballs, it just puts a bad rep on paintball, and that is not what we want.

Centrist 10 years, 12 months ago

The No.2 sport on planet earth (international cricket, the original mother of baseball) can't even get coverage here in the U.S, yet here we are talking about paintball (no offence, Kyle).

You wouldn't know there's a World Cup going on at the moment because the American media won't talk about it ... yet you can go to Siberia and get NFL, NBA, etc.

porkchop 10 years, 12 months ago

Also, overdefensive sixteen year old kid, the point is it's a simulation of violence. You're stalking other players with a gun (you can call it a "marker" or a "banana" or "bagpipes", if it makes you feel better, though).

I'm not making a moral judgment. I've played. Found it boring. Not my cup of tea. Whatever. But if you want people to take you seriously:

  1. Learn to understand sarcasm/irony.
  2. Respond to the arguments put forward. Nobody said anything about safety.
  3. Make comments that reflect reality, not just your view of reality.

Centrist 10 years, 12 months ago

TOB ... it's a lot like baseball only more hits along the ground, more running and a bigger field. You get six runs every time you hit one over the boundary on the full, 4 runs if it lands first, etc. Only 1 inning per team, but 10 outs, and so on. It's the second-most followed sport in the world behind soccer.

I suggest you (everyone) go to and search for "cricket world cup" and there's a shipload of highlights there ..

We even have a local KC league in our area, yet most people don't know about it.

Flap Doodle 10 years, 12 months ago

So we can add "comedian" to the ever-expanding list of failed Marion enterprises?

Centrist 10 years, 12 months ago

TOB ... yeah, the coach, Bob Woolmer was a South African who had played for England, but had been coaching Pakistan. Pakistan lost to Ireland, who were practically new to the game, as well as the World Cup. He was murdered in his hotel toom in Jamaica the night after the game, and the Jamaican police are about as close to solving it as the Arubans are with the Natalee Holloway case.

The first time anything anywhere near this sort of magnitude has happened in about 300 years of the game, and they still don't know by whom, or why.

Centrist 10 years, 12 months ago

Right, TOB.

On the subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) they will celebrate in the streets with a win, but with a loss, the fans will actually burn effigies of the players or destroy their homes.

I love cricket - so much that my wife gets sick of it. But I would never go THAT crazy ..

KyleSchuler 10 years, 12 months ago

again, i didnt mean for it to be so harsh, everyone has their opinions, you may like it or not. but i dont think paintball is a violent sport. i may have took it too personally, but oh well. and, paintball was on ESPN, there was a pro tournament on ESPN for awhile, and WPN(i believe?) had another series of a pro event. so paintball is becoming bigger and bigger.

so sorry for "calling you out" marion, i just took it too personal.

EireishHawk 10 years, 12 months ago

1 Marion, Marion, Marion, when will you learn to contact the sixteen year olds before you post?

2 Kyle, never let others on LJWorld know that you care deeply about any given topic. It's like the smell of blood to sharks :-}

Flap Doodle 10 years, 12 months ago


Can you spell J-O-K-E?



JoeNobody 10 years, 12 months ago

Oh boy, this must be a college town. I find this extremely humorous. Watch and see what kind of a hell storm this post rages, and I will sit back and laugh.
A. If Cricket is the 2nd most watched sport in the world it is based purely on lack of options. The sport is a mainstay of countries like India, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and others, were there sports choices are needless to say, limited. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it's great, but you better pack a lunch if you're going to watch a cricket match. Lasting 6 hours plus, you must be starving for entertainment to follow this sport. I have a hard time watching a baseball game lasting half that time.

B. Like Kyle said, Paintball is no more a violent sport than Hockey, Football or Boxing. It appears violent to the narrow minded, take life to seriously, revoke gun rights, ra ra cum bye ya, politically correct, liberal minded half-wits that litter the country today. Whether it is or is not your cup of tea, let people enjoy doing what they love to do. If it doesn't make you happy or full of joy, don't do it, ohh, I here there's a flag burning on campus tonight. Violence is what happened to the coach of the cricket game when he lost a match, or the unfortunate events that took place at Va Tech last week.

I'm simply looking for a matter of perspective. I have no doubt this little controversy over such a hanis image as someone holding a paintball gun, that's right, I called it a gun, is why the image of the paintball player was removed from the front page of this website today and replaced with a nice old lady teaching a youngster the non-violent game of bridge. Congrats censorship Nazis, mission almost accomplished. I'm seriously considering never returning to Lawrence but the Steak and Shake is just to damn good.

Well, Maybe I over reacted. Actually I'm not a serious person and hope the oversensitive can take this as more of a joke than anything, with a hint of seriousness

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