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PSTA Moves Forward
In 2007 several key companies in the paintball industry got together and formed the Paintball Sports Trade Association, designed to help grow and stabilize the paintball industry as our economy headed into uncertain times. Officially the group's purpose is “to increase the awareness, acceptance and participation of paintball all over the world.”
Ultimately, growth in general play, growth of tournament play, growth of scenario play, and growth of local paintball stores and fields all help the manufacturers who founded the group. For the involved companies, they hope that by helping players and small paintball business owners succeed, they will be helping themselves succeed.
In the roughly two and a half years since its inception, the PSTA has not accomplished much, other than to develop a web site, keep existing, gain new members. To the average paintballer that may not seem like a great feat, but it is further than past attempts at industry organizations have gone. Typically such industry organizing efforts have centered around buying into advertising or marketing programs of dubious value, or were polarized toward promotion of a particular manufacturer or media outlet, resulting in alienation of some of their potential members. When such groups were championed by individual leaders in the industry – many looked with skeptical eyes for how that one person's company might benefit over the others. The fact that the PSTA has managed to keep existing, says something about both its potential, and the concern industry leaders have for the future of the sport.
The PSTA's membership presently consists of 13 companies: Action Village, DYE Paintball, JT Sports, KEE Action Sports, Kingman USA, Nxe, Planet Eclipse, Procaps Paintball, Severe Paintball, Smart Parts, Special Ops Paintball, Tippmann Sports and Angel Paintball Sports.
Recently organization affiliated itself with Paintball Events' industry-only trade show, Paintball Extravaganza, providing steering and direction for the annual event produced by Rich Chard.
The idea of the PSTA has held enough promise that it has brought paintball industry veteran Russel Maynard out of retirement. Maynard, who started playing paintball in the 1980s, served as the founding editor of Action Pursuit Games Magazine with the publication's Fall 1987 issue. He also has operated a successful paintball field on the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in Southern California and been an effective tournament series promoter, playing key roles in the production of the Great Western Series and its successor the Pan Am Circuit. Moreover, since he has been retired from paintball recently, Maynard is not coming to PSTA the table with the baggage of being from one of the major manufacturers.
In an interview with WARPIG.com, Maynard discussed his new role as a director for PSTA, and at least for the next few months, what projects he is putting together for the group.
PSTA's involvement with the Paintball Extravaganza is scheduled to continue, with plans for the show to take place in the early fall. Although in recent years many manufacturers have barely had product ready to show in time for World Cup in October, Maynard's goal is to get the industry on track to launch its 2010 product line in September of 2009. The idea behind this is to allow store owners the time needed to place orders and have product in stock for the Christmas buying season – a time which has historically seen some of the heaviest buying patterns among consumers.
Maynard is also getting ready to launch a new tournament competition division in conjunction with Paintball Sports Promotions. He's taking some old ideas and giving them a new twist. West coast players who remember the GWS and Pan Am (including this author who played the GWS with Lil' Rascals) know about the Young Guns competition for players aged 14 to 18 who have not competed in open amateur (non age restricted) paintball tournaments before.
The PSTA is planning to bring a Young Guns division to the PSP – but here's the catch. It's free. No entry fee, no paint fee, no air fee, and markers will be provided – young guns teams simply need to sign up and show up, dressed to compete.
The new Young Guns division is scheduled to start at the 2009 PSP Chicago Open, likely limited to about 24 teams, and continue at each PSP tournament through to World Cup, where if all goes as planned it may be large enough to allow as many as 200 teams. The teams will play a limited paint format game of “hopperball.” This format was used in both the GWS and Pan Am. By limiting teams to 200 paintballs per player the game was more affordable. It also had benefits in emphasizing marksmanship and snap-shooting skills.
When the Pan Am circuit expanded to the East Coast, in 2000, hopperball was a tough sell, and not well accepted. Looking at the teams like Naughty Dogs and Dynasty (or more specifically Ironkids, KAPP Factory, and Lofty, the teams that brought Dynasty into being) that cut their teeth in the GWS and moved straight on to national wins, something can be said for learning to play with limited paint. Rocky Knuth of the Naughty Dogs credited his team's early successes in the NPPL in part with the shooting skills they had learned to succeed at hopperball.
According to Maynard Initial markers used will be supplied by DYE and Smart Parts, though this may well expand as the season continues. Because the markers will be league supplied for the competition, problems with circuit boards programmed with cheater modes are taken out of the picture, allowing for traditional semi-automatic mode to be used. Also, to decrease intimidation, a maximum velocity of 270 fps will be used. The PSTA hopes that this open competition will become a breeding ground for the tournament players of tomorrow who will then become customers at local fields.
Maynard also believes that the Young Guns competition will serve as a proving ground, showing to field owners and regional tournament operators that limited paint and limited technology are viable and even desirable formats from a business perspective.
Also commencing with the Chicago Open will be the PSTA shooting range. In the past, it has been hit and miss whether paingun manufacturers would set up a shooting range to allow players to “test drive” their products at a tournament trade show. One of the reasons for this was expense – square footage at a trade show is not inexpensive. The PSTA plans to provide a single shooting range packed with markers from all of its manufacturer members. By pooling their efforts the cost of operating a range comes down for the manufacturers.
The planned shooting range will have all of the currently produced markers from each manufacturer along with company representatives to explain their operations and features. Players and event visitors will be able to purchase paintballs at a cost of $3 per hundred balls and simply wait in line for the marker they wish to try, firing their paint with no additional costs. According to Maynard professional paintball players occasionally coming in to serve as targets will add to the fun.
The PSTA is also looking to expand into a new membership category, with a field and store membership program. Member benefits will include access to a private on-line forum available only to validated paintball industry members. Maynard says that the forum will provide the opportunity to share ideas and marketing methods, and deliver direct access to manufacturing representatives. Members will also gain access to the Paintball Extravaganza Trade show. Like the previous year, manufacturer discounts and credits provided to show attendees should more than offset the cost of attending.
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