A quick Google search will bring up hundreds of paintball sites. Narrow it down to your immediate vicinity though and, chances are, there will still be a handful of sites near you to choose from. I’ve mentioned before a few tips on what makes a good paintball site, but it wasn’t anywhere near definitive, so today I’m going to look into it in a bit more detail – as we don’t want you getting ripped off. Or worse…
When I say ‘rookie’ sites, I mean paintball venues that are simply below par. Anyone that has ever played at an established and respected paintball venue will know straightaway why they are so good, but unfortunately anyone can set up their own paintball venue without any specific regulations, so here’s what to look out for before you play. As I said, the web is awash with paintball sites all trying to grab your attention, and a lot of this is through advertising. Just because a site shows up on the first page of Google results, doesn’t mean it’s any good. It could mean that they just paid to have their site there and their advertising budget is perhaps bigger than their operating budget. It should always be the other way round. However, check out each of your local paintball sites online first, and focus on actual paintball user reviews, as these are honest and hopefully impartial; any site worth its salt will happily publish or link to a range of user reviews, good or bad.
Before you do all of this though, to be able to spot a cowboy paintball venue you first need to know what a great paintball venue is like, so you can tell the difference. Well, a good paintball site should always:
Have an established and clear website, with full contact details, prices and testimonials
Have actual user reviews online. These are not the responsibility of the paintball provider (as they are written by players), but a lack of them suggests the venue is either brand new, under-used or perhaps ‘fly by night’.
Have full onsite facilities: toilets, food, changing rooms, safety zones, parking, signage…basically everything you would expect. A lack of physical presence suggests the provider isn’t in it for the long haul and is instead focussing on just making a quick buck out of their spare field. Not a safe bet.
Several safety marshals on site all day. This is an absolute minimum to expect from a paintball provider. We’ve heard horror stories of players showing up in someone’s field, being given equipment by some guy and then just being left to their own devices. This is both a total waste of money and obviously very dangerous. Safety marshals are their for several reasons, the most important one being player safety.
Knowledgeable and helpful staff. If you find a website that looks good, has a lot of information and is near you, give them a call. Obviously you’ll want to know about price and availability, but also ask them the sort of questions that a rookie venue will struggle to answer: ‘What’s your insurance policy?’, ‘How many first aiders will be on site that day?’ or ‘How often are your markers safety checked?’.
All of the above is the minimum you should expect from a paintball venue, especially if you are paying a premium for it. However here are some ways to spot a dodgy paintball site before committing to play there.
The website is unclear, especially about onsite facilities. You should know exactly what you are paying for, not just a generic line promising ‘all the facilities you would expect’ etc.
Unclear game zones. Many shoddy paintball sites are set up and dismantled in a relatively short space of time, before moving to a new location to start again. Because of this, watch out for websites which perhaps show elaborate game zones, but in actual fact the photos don’t represent the site you plan on visiting. Again, you should know exactly what is on offer before you show up.
What is included in the price? Everything should be included in the price. With the exception of perhaps lunch, everything you need for the day should be covered in the cost. Far too many paintball sites advertise things like ‘Paintball for £10!” but when you show up they tell you that the price doesn’t include paintballs, so you have to shell out another £10 – £20 for them. Avoid these chancers.
Try and opt for a paintball provider that has several sites. This not only suggests that they are a serious business, but also that they are established and can offer a better experience and price through passing on the economies of scale to the customer. However this isn’t always the case of course; a single, stand alone site could in fact be far better maintained and cared for than a large chain paintball site, plus it could be more flexible is updating its equipment. Unfortunately this usually isn’t the case though.
I’ve talked a lot on this blog about how safe is paintball, and this should be a huge consideration when booking a day at a venue. If their website doesn’t cover their safety procedures then make sure you ask them directly over the phone. Anywhere that can’t give you a clear breakdown of exactly how they manage your personal safety at all times should not be used. Experienced players will obviously know what to look for here, but for newbies make sure they can tell you everything you need to know about their equipment standards, maintenance, usage, game zone rules, emergency procedures, how many marshals will be onsite, where the nearest hospital is etc.
There is usually around one marshal to every 10 – 12 players, so be cautious of anywhere with less than that. And there should always be a trained first aid marshal onsite all day too.
That’s about it though folks. Most of it will be common sense mixed with a little bit of gut instinct, but it’s important to cover all of the details. You want to be able to play with confidence and enjoy your big day’s paintball safe in the knowledge you’re in capable hands. Make sure all the boxes are ticked and don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you want before handing over any cash. As always though, listen for recommendations from experienced friends and swot up on those user reviews!
Better still, if you’ve been to a venue, write your own review…that way you can help those who are new to the game.