Paintballers Looking For Field Of Fun

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Just a few hours after working to save souls in his congregation, Pastor Ken Schroth can be found blowing them away every other Sunday on a paintball battlefield.

The Tonto Village Chapel pastor, decked out in camouflage and a face mask, and nearly 20 others face off in painty mayhem after Sunday morning amens.

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Payson Paintballer Ken Schroth comes out of the game with a paintball splatter wound to the head. The Payson Paintballers play elimination games every other Sunday.

"I was introduced to paintballing as a youth minister and found it a great way to get the kids together and have some safe fun while still getting a good adrenaline rush," Schroth said.

Schroth, 45, and his two sons, Bryan, 24, and Chris, 18, began paintballing with their family friend, Samuel Woods, 24, more than a year ago.

Payson Paintballers was formed in October 2003, and after almost three months, the organization has grown five times its original size.

And now the 'ballers are looking for a field to call their own.

"We have several fields scattered around the Rim country, but we are definitely in the market for a nice guy to donate, or at least let us use, a few acres to make a real paintball field," Schroth said.

Schroth and the others usually break up into two teams and play an elimination game where the team with all their players eliminated first loses.

"Stay alive and take more out," said Schroth, an Oregon native.

And if that gets old, Schroth said there's capture the flag or scenario games to play like "The President," where players must escort a person through a group to the other side of the field.

Or there's the hostage scenario, where a team must defend "hostages" and escort them to a certain point amidst "terrorists."

"It's just something fun to do," Schroth said. "It's recreation."

Originally, paintball started with the invention of the paintball gun in the 1970s, used by farmers and ranchers to mark trees and livestock.

By the 1980s, three New Hampshire residents began playing and the paintball craze spread across the country.

The Payson Paintballers, whose ages range from 9 to 50, use paintball guns powered by either carbon dioxide or compressed air.

Schroth said the guns shoot paintballs that consist of dye and vegetable oil inside soft plastic shells -- usually in pink, green, orange, yellow, white or blue.

The paintballs travel at around 280 to 325 feet per second according to Schroth.

In other words, a paintball can travel the length of a football field in 1 second.

But Schroth said it doesn't hurt too bad (when they hit you).

"They usually leave a little welt the size of a quarter that fades to a bruise on us chronologically seasoned players, or old-timers," he said. "It's fun because it hurts bad enough that you don't want to get hit, but not so bad that you don't want to play again."

Schroth said they make sure that everyone wears a face mask for protection, and some participants choose to wear knee pads, elbow pads and chest protectors.

"It's a dangerous sport, but they say it's safer than golf, bowling and tennis," said Bryan. "We've been playing for over a year and I don't think anybody's ever gotten hurt."

Schroth said there are several father-son duos in the organization.

"It's a great way for a dad and his kids to get out, work together or on opposite teams," Schroth said.

While the Payson Paintballers play in remote, wooded areas, Schroth said they are looking for a designated field on which to play.

With their own field, Schroth said they could set up "sniper towers" and obstacles, and have free range of play without potentially being in anyone else's way.

Schroth said a designated field, could set the stage for a good investment opportunity for someone interested in starting a paintball business.

Currently, supplies are available at Payson Welding and through the Internet.

Schroth said to get started, it usually costs about $150.

Something to keep in mind -- the use of paintball guns comes with regulations in the town code, said Payson Police Sgt. Donald Garvin.

"We have had problems in the past with people damaging other people's property and injuries," Garvin said. "You cannot recklessly discharge a paintball gun. But if there's a group of people who are willing to do it and take their own risks, it's not ‘reckless,'" Garvin said.

However, it does pose a problem as far as the participants playing on other people's property without the property owner's knowledge, he said. Schroth said the group uses a remote forest area for play, not private property.

To join the Payson Paintballers, Schroth said anyone interested can send an e-mail to paysonpaintballers@yahoo.com.

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