Ready, Aim, Splat!

According to national statistics from 2003, there were 0.2 injuries per 1,000 paintball participants, compared to 1.9 in touch football and 2.2 for softball.

“It’s no more dangerous than football or softball,” says Riser. “There are actually fewer injuries.”

What about the city’s legal responsibilities in owning a paintball park? Riser notes Palm Bay does not have to carry any special insurance–it is covered under the same liability umbrella as all of the other city parks. He adds that Cloe also has to carry his own insurance policy, but the city is not adversely affected by its involvement in the park.

Making The Connection

Cloe says the benefits of paintball are similar to those of most sports–respect, teamwork and self-esteem.

“Not all kids fit into the basketball, baseball and soccer mold,” he points out. “They’ll do it, but some of them want something a little more extreme.”

And officials just might find some surprising ways to utilize a paintball park.

Cloe explains that Fort Pierce–a neighboring suburb of Palm Bay–was experiencing problems with two rival youth gangs.

“The sheriff brought the gangs to the park as an intervention,” he says.

First, they were given paintball guns and allowed to have at it, battling each other for over an hour. Then the two gangs were split, with half of each group sent to the rival gang.

“By the end of the day, these guys, who would just as soon stab each other, were laughing, slapping each other on the back and protecting each other by yelling ‘he’s coming around the back,’ and working as a team.”

The fields at Hurricane Paintball Park now see more than 100 users per day, including people of all abilities. Cloe emphasizes the importance of families working together to build memories.

“I like to put Mom in the sniper tower and let her shoot,” he says. “Or I set it up for a little boy to take the castle and be the one to rescue his dad. The amount of self-esteem they get from it is just incredible.”

Cloe adds his decision to become a part of the business was fueled by his relationship with his own son, who at 16 was hard to talk to.

“I couldn’t get my own son to talk to me, but he didn’t have a problem shooting me,” he laughs. “At that moment it hit me, and I knew I had something.”

Seasonal Or Year-Round

Riser advises other city officials to consider the area they live in before determining whether the facility will operate on a seasonal or year-round basis. Palm Bay officials initially created a budget under the assumption the park would be a year-round operation. However, they soon realized their mistake–it’s too hot to play paintball in the South from May through November.

“It’s a little backwards down here,” Riser says. “It’s a seasonal operation similar to a golf course up north.”

Regardless of unexpected expenses and a shorter season than anticipated, Riser says the park is just one more amenity to offer residents.

“It’s been a successful operation for us,” he notes. “If there’s a large number of folks that will be supportive, I would build it.”

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