Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 5, 2005

Creating local paintball course was easy decision

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

Where else can a grown group of guys get dressed up in camouflage, hide in fox holes and other obstacles, and take shots at some of their best friends?

Of course, they’re not taking real shots – they are shooting balls of paint, and playing a game appropriately named paintball.

Paintball is becoming a common game across the United States, and now, it can be played locally on a course designed specifically for the game.

Wayne Birkholz and his wife, Sharon, have created the 13.2-acre Shoot ‘Em Up Paintball course on property owned by their family, between Howard Lake and Winsted on Lathrop Avenue.

The course includes everything from fox holes people can hide in, rows of old tires to hide behind, and a converted deer stand for Wayne to stand in, holding his handheld radio, and communicating to the two teams of paintballers on his course.

Wayne and Sharon’s son, Jeremy, was at a wedding, and a group of people went paintballing.

“He came home and told us about it, and it took me about three minutes until I said I was going to do that,” Wayne said.

So Wayne plotted out his 13.2-acre course, where a variety of capture the flag games, among other types of games are played. He knew nothing about the sport, but went down south to become certified in operating a paintball course for insurance reasons.

At Shoot ‘Em Up, $30 gets two hours of play time, goggles, a neck protector, 300 paintballs, and gun rental. A signed waiver must be completed before entering the course.

Extra paintballs can be purchased at a cost of $5 per 100 paintballs. For those that wish to show their demise, there are “I got shot at Shoot ‘Em Up Paintball’ shirts available for sale.

The Birkholzes have 36 guns, which means 36 people can play on the course at a time. Wayne said, usually, the more people that are out, the more fun it is.

“The older players whine more than the younger ones,” he said with a laugh.

More information about Shoot ‘Em Up Paintball can be found online at www.shootemuppaintball.com or by calling (320) 543-2624.

The origins of paintball

The history of paintball dates back to 1970, when James Hale of Daisy Manufacturing invented and patented what would become the first paintball gun

This original paintgun was manufactured and used for marking trees and cattle, and was later sold for paintball use under the Nelson name.

The first game of paintball was played June 27, 1981 with 12 players competing against each other using Nel-spot 007 pistols.

These pistols were originally used by the forestry service for marking trees for excavation. The players included Wall Street stockbroker, Hayes Noel; Robert Gurnsey, author of “Pumping Iron;” Charles Gaines, and nine others. The game was capture the flag. The winner, Ritchie White, captured all flags without firing a shot.

The first outdoor paintball field was opened April 1982 in Rochester, N.Y., by Caleb Strong, one of the current owners of PMI Northeast.

In 1982, Charles Gaines marketed paintball as the National Survival Game (NSG). PMI (Pursuit Marketing Inc.) was founded to market and distribute paintball products.

Articles about the first game, written by the actual players, were published in Sports Illustrated and other national publications.

The first NSG national championship took place in 1983 with a $14,000 cash purse.

In 1984, the first indoor playing field opened in Buffalo N.Y., by Caleb Strong.

Several years later, in 1988, the International Paintball Players Association (IPPA) was founded as a non-profit association dedicated to the education, growth and safety of the sport of paintball.

The NPPL (National Professional Paintball League) was founded in the early 1990s and the NPPL Pro-Am Series started with tournaments in Reno, New York, Boston, and other cities around the U.S.

History of paintball from Paintball Competitions and Ratings International.

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