Shooting up in popularity
Paintball enthusiasts take to the Arkansas Riverbed.
By ANGIE HAFLICH
It's possible that no one takes paintball more seriously, yet has more fun at it, than Hector Ontiveros.
"That's all I ever do — work, come home, weekends (it's) paintball. No partying, no drinking, no smoking, none of that, just paintball. That's all I ever want to do," the 20-year-old Garden City resident said.
Ontiveros basically resembles a tree or bush in his full camouflage gear, making it extremely difficult for other opponents to spot him among the trees and tamaracks at the Arkansas River, where paintball enthusiasts and rookies alike gather to play every weekend.
"I usually just stalk people before I do something," Ontiveros said, grinning.
Kimberly Parker, Garden City, told him she heard him sneaking around the corner during a game they played Sunday.
Ontiveros said he snuck up on Parker another time, when she didn't hear him coming.
"There was a day I came out here. It was her and another of her friends shooting somebody else, and I came here and was like, 'Oh, let me weed them out then.' And then I find (Kimberly) crawling on her belly somewhere else, and I stood right behind her and said, 'Are you done yet?'" he said.
"Needless to say, it scared me," Kimberly Parker said, laughing.
In paintball, players either compete on teams or individually and using paintball guns, shoot water soluble dye at their opponents. When a player is shot, they are effectively eliminated from the game.
During Sunday's outing, Hector Ontiveros, Chris Parker, Garden City, and Jim Terry, Holcomb, formed a team to take on German Ontiveros, Garden City, Kimberly Parker and Dan Eslinger, Deerfield, who also was decked out in camouflage. Watching the action was similar to watching a war movie, complete with the sounds of automatic weapon fire as each of them hid behind trees, as well as self-made hiding spots, such as stacks of tires and large wooden spools.
In the end, Hector Ontiveros, Parker and Terry's team prevailed.
All of the participants said the activity is an excellent way to release tension.
"If you're married, bring down the wife, light her up with some paintballs," Chris Parker said, laughing.
Hector Ontiveros said it's like having fun and working at the same time.
"It's just an adrenaline rush. It's fun to do, a good hobby — nothing better about it," he said.
As it turns out, a large number of people feel the same way about the activity.
Jamin Evans, Garden City, along with his three sons, 7-year-old Jay, 10-year-old Ian and 16-year-old Kyle, came to play Sunday. Evans said he and his wife, Kyla Evans, have played for years, but that the popularity of the sport has picked up recently.
"We play every weekend. Then we stopped for awhile, and it's picking back up. The most we could get back then was 20 people. Now, they're saying they got like 60, 80 folks that are coming down there," Evans said.
The Parkers own Biohazard Paintball Adventures, and Chris said people from all over southwest Kansas come to play.
"We get people from Ulysses, Lakin, Scott City, Dodge City — there's a lot of people coming. With not much to do in Garden City or the surrounding areas, it's definitely a good thing for the community," Parker said,
Ontiveros said that Garden City paintball enthusiasts also travel to Dodge City and other areas to play.
"Dodge has their own field, but they have weird hours," he said. "Everybody knows our hours. It's just up to them if they want to come."
The hobby is somewhat costly, in terms of purchasing guns and other gear, but rentals are also available for the less serious. Parker provides rentals out of the back of a truck that he parks down by the river.
"We offer all rental equipment from your markers, your hoppers, CO2 tanks. We fill CO2. We will offer high pressure air fills," he said.
Markers are the paintball guns, and hoppers are similar to magazines that hold the paintballs. C02 is what provides the pressure to shoot the guns. Parker also provides safety masks.
"It's $25 (all day), and we'll get you everything but the paint," Parker said.
For about $30, 2,000 paintballs can be purchased, and depending on whether someone likes to shoot a lot or not, can last several weeks.
"I like to conserve mine, so I don't really waste as much, so a box will last me a couple of weeks," Ontiveros said.
Parker is in the progress of constructing a paintball park at an old abandoned baseball field near Holcomb that he anticipates will be ready in mid-August.
"We're in the process of building a paintball park just south of Holcomb that's going to offer paintballing for anywhere from church groups, school groups, Boy Scouts, corporate outings, and we're in the process of building the facility now," he said.
On Sunday, in addition to the Evans clan, several other kids were giving paintball a go, including 10-year-old Bodie Landgraf, Garden City, 11-year-old Jerica McGuire, 10-year-old Josh McGuire, and 7-year-old Kyle McGuire, all of Garden City. Kyle chose to play paintball for his birthday and thanks to Landgraf, Kyle received a small red spot on his back as a present.
"A little bit it hurt," Kyle said, shrugging.
The kids said getting hit with a paintball is like a sting that goes away pretty quickly.
"When you get hit by a paintball, it doesn't hurt as much as you'd think it would," Ian said.
For Josh, and most of the other kids, it was their first time at paintball.
"It was fun because I got to shoot people with paint," Josh said.