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The Field Surface

One of the first things you will have to decide is what you want on the field surface. I have heard of people using nothing - just concrete or wood floor, carpet, dirt, cat litter, and a host of other substances to cover the floor. Without a doubt, the best field surface is going to be astro turf. The thing to remember, is if you have hundreds of people coming to play in a weekend, you are going to have tens of thousands of paintballs being shot in your facility. The ability to keep the field playable, where people enjoy it, and the ability to clean up after the games is the main concerns.

The big problem with just plain concrete - is it gets slippery so fast - it makes it to where people cannot get any footing, they can't run, and they will slip and fall a lot. Not only does this make playing not to much fun, it will increase your liability as there is a higher potential for injury.

The problem with coverings like dirt, peat & sand mixes, cat litter, etc, is that fact that it is virtually impossible to clean well. Paintballs are biodegradable - the outer shell is made from glycerin, and if not disposed of, these will start to break down, rot and smell. And the inner product of a paintball is composed of a greasy PEG (poly ethanol glycol) base which also will get very nasty in a short period of time.

I've known people to do dirt inside a building, and the only real way to have that work is if you have ready access to a lot of dirt - maybe there are huge dump truck loads of dirt on your property, and you have yourself a John Deere tractor, and every few weeks, you can groom your fields, scrape off the nasty, greasy, smelly dirt and dump it out side to let nature take its course, and bring in fresh dirt and run something like an arena drag over it.

While dirt is pretty cheap up front, the cost of maintaining in labor, diesel, etc, will get to be very high in time. That is why the ones I saw that used dirt - had pretty much given up on keeping them clean - and they were sloppy messes. The paintball grease mixed in with the dirt, got tracked all over the facility, and the whole place was nasty and smelled terrible. This is not an environment that will be attractive to our target demographic. It also is very hard on guns. The dirt getting in the mechanisms will wreck havoc on your customers equipment, as well as your rental gear.

I've also known of fields that tried to use carpet scraps to try to save money. Carpet fibers are absorbent, and they will saturate with the PEG and again, get very slippery. And if clean, the rug burns guys get trying to slide on it will tear up jerseys, pants, shirts, arms and legs.

Astro Turf So what do you use?? Astro Turf. You just can't beat turf for the perfect field surface for paintball. Since the fibers are some kind of plastic, they don't absorb the grease. It is not too hard to clean (we'll get into that later), it has pretty good footing, and yet people can slide well on it. It will do the best as far as keeping your facility clean - and your customers happy. Really, the only problem with astro turf is the cost. You will see the price varies like crazy when you start pricing it out. You will see prices for new astro turf ranging from just over a buck a square foot, to over 7 dollars a square foot. You can search out Turf companies, and get samples of different quality and price.

What did we do?? We got used turf. There was an indoor field in our town that had gone out of business, and the landlord had the turf still in the building where the field used to be - and he sold it to me pretty darn cheap. You can also contact local schools, stadiums, etc as many use turf, and they replace it now and then. If you can hit the time they are changing it out, you might be able to get the older used stuff for cheap or free! I would much rather have bad turf than great dirt! And again, by contacting the companies that sell turf, you may find one that is doing a big job for someone else, installing new stuff - and they can work you a deal on getting the old stuff at a good price.

Also, you will probably see that if someone is replacing a whole football field worth of turf - some of it will be a bit torn up - like near the goal line, center of field, etc, but you will probably find lots of areas that looks pretty darn good. Turf comes in rolls, and they can vary in size. Ours were 14 ft wide, and 100 feet long. And it weighs a ton. It took a heavy duty fork lift to move these rolls into our building. Then I used a chain and a 4 wheel drive truck to drag them where I wanted them. Then using the fork lift gently, they unrolled the turf. Then with a bunch of guys and carpet grabber tools, you can move it around a bit. Then you seam it together, much like carpet seaming, but make sure you use very wide and sturdy seaming tape. You may want to call someone in to do this - but it is a project you can do yourself.

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Since the stuff we got was nasty - used turf from a paintball field that didn't clean it too well - at least for the last few months - it was loaded with grease. We ended up slowly hosing down the entire field to loosen up the grease and dirt, and hot dog buns, and nacho's that were embeded in the turf. (This is starting to sound like fun - isn't it?)

And then that water needs to go somewhere - so let's talk about drainage!

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