Paintball taking off in Austin community

Published 9:00 am Saturday, September 6, 2014

A bride and her bridesmaids recently spent part of a day at Splat! Paintball Field south of Austin on Highway 218. – Provided

A bride and her bridesmaids recently spent part of a day at Splat! Paintball Field south of Austin on Highway 218. – Provided

By Jason Schoonover, Austin Daily Herald

A few months ago, a group of young women held a bachelorette party where they strapped on some armor, loaded markers and took to a paintball field just south of Austin.

At the end, they shot a wedding dress with paintballs.

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“It was really cool,” said Terry Culton, owner of Splat! Paintball Field. “That’s one thing I’ve seen grow over the years is there are more and more women playing.”

Culton also recalled a 78-year-old playing paintball at Splat.

To Culton, it’s another sign that in about 12 years at Splat, more and more people are getting on board with paintball.

“That’s what it’s all about; it’s having fun,” he said.

Culton first started playing paintball about 20 years ago with his stepson. After a storm knocked over oak trees on his property, the two cut them down and made them into bunkers, which are still part of what would become Splat! Paintball Field.

“That was the start of it,” he said.

Splat opened in 2002.


‘It’s having fun’

When he first started, Culton admitted many parents and groups were hesitant about paintball, fearing their children would be hurt. But Culton said paintball is much safer than people think.

“They’re relaxed once they have come here and actually seen how it works,” he said. “Then all the fears are gone and they keep coming back.”

Over time, he’s seen people’s fears wash away.

For the most part, Splat operates through rentals. Culton hosts events for many church groups, birthday parties, and bachelor and bachelorette parties. He also has open-field Sundays several times a year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., where people can get a rental package and extra balls.

Culton compared paintball to playing army or as simulated military play, but there’s much more to it than that.

Typically, a Splat paintball day starts out simple with some introductory games to get used to the course before introducing scenarios and games.

Typically when a group comes in, Culton said they start apprehensive, which is a sign the people haven’t played before.

“We help them get up and running pretty quick,” Culton said.

Once players are used to paintball and through course, Culton introduces games.

In a game called Skull, they throw a Halloween-type skull between the two teams and the teams have to bring it back to their fort to win. Players marked must drop the skull and return to their base to regenerate.

“There’s a goal; it’s a fast-paced game,” he said.

Another game called Jailhouse Rock puts marked players in jail, but a live player from either team can take a player from either team and return them to their team whenever they reach the jail.

Another game, which has been played around the country for many years, is called Civil War, and players can only load one ball at a time and line up in a row and shoot.

There’s all types of paintball players: snipers, flankers, heavy gunners and more. Culton knows what he is.

“I’m a heavy gunner,” he said. “They see me coming and they run.”

Sometimes, Culton uses a heavy-duty marker and often a barrel that can shoot curves around corners.

“It’s like a baseball player throwing a curveball,” he said.

Regardless of the player types, Culton described paintball as a social activity, with players gathering and chatting in between rounds,

“It’s a real social event, too,” he said, as people chat between games at a pavilion on the grounds and talk about the games.


Player driven

Culton prides himself on customer quality, and he prides himself on having markers that work well and are reliable. As someone who started as a paintballer, he said he knows what people want.

“This paintball field grew out of being a paintball player to begin with,” Culton said.

People get safety gear with rental packages, and Culton said they turn down the pressure on paintball markers — the proper term for paintball guns — to certain levels, and they also lower them for children.

Splat has several safety procedures in place. If children take their masks off during a game, they have to sit out matches and later turn in their gear if they don’t stop.

A basic package at Splat is $26, plus tax and a silver package is $40, plus tax, which features a faster, machine-gun like marker. People can also purchase extra paintballs.

Private groups typically book a day at a time and last three to four hours, according to Culton.

People who shoot a lot spend more money.


A bright future

Culton shows no signs of quitting anytime soon, noting he once joked he’d need a walker with paintball markers mounted on it. Someday, he hopes someone else will keep the business going.

“It would be nice to see it continue beyond me,” he said.

Culton grew up in Austin and wants to see it move on.

“It’s just another activity that’s different that’s available to kids,” he said.

Splat is open from April 1 through Nov. 30, depending on weather, but it’s closed for Thanksgiving and some other major holidays.

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