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NPPL Tampa
 May 19-21, 2006
Photos by Dawn Mills

Sacramento XSV - First Place Pro
A Team - Fires Place Semipro
SD Aftermath - First Place DI
Hogan's Alley - First Place DII
Team Never - First Place DIII

When something is a good fit, you hang onto it, and that is what the National Professional Painbtall League and Pure Promotions have done with Tampa, Florida’s Raymond Jaymes Stadium.  First used as a venue in 2004, the second season of Super 7 Paintball World Series competition, the grass practice fields adjacent to the stadium where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do battle on the gridiron provided ample space for game fields and player staging, while a connected grove of shade trees created a comfortable thoroughfare for Super 7 sponsors to exhibit their products.

Timing of the tournament put it in Florida – a state where year-round paintball weather makes it easy to draw teams from the southeastern US – before the start of Atlantic Hurricane season.  With field prep complete, teams were able to walk the fields on Thursday, and captains made their way to the mandatory captains meeting to be briefed on event specific information as well as the latest rule updates.

Event scheduling placed the less experienced teams taking to the fields first on Friday, and the pro games on the weekend, giving spectators who work through the week, the best chance to see their favorite teams in action.  With the last games of the US Paintball Championships, an ESPN TV series covering the 2005 Super 7 Commander’s Cup tournament pro division, airing close to the tournament, an ample opportunity was provided for the NPPL pro division teams to see a swell in their fan base.

Those pro teams came to Tampa not only seeking the trophy for the tournament, but also to add to series points they’d earned at the start of the season in Huntington Beach.  Sacramento XSV, the first team other than Dynasty to win Huntington Beach was sitting in the top seat, but Dynasty was right behind them.  New York NRG and Miami Rage, were also in contention to benefit from a strong Tampa finish.

The start of play on Friday was met with clear blue skies and warm in the upper 80s, with humidity just a bit over 50 percent.  SemiPro, Division I, Division II and Division III teams played the first of their games starting in the morning and running through the day. 

Most of Division III’s, 62 teams had five of their eight preliminary round games the first day, where 187cRew was showing a lead at the end of the day.  Along with Team Never, 1 Up Kids, Kolohe, G’s Hypnotic, and AB Reckless, 187 cRew played the day without losing a single game. 

In Division II the schedule placed most teams with four first day games.  Out of the 61 teams in the division Vatos Loco Division 2, Torment, Sniper Force, Nurv Paintball Club, LTZ’s Destiny, Dynasty Entourage and Ballistic were all undefeated.

Thirty-five teams came out to do battle in Division I.  Here Critical Paintball, East Coast Underground, FEP Quest, HK by PB, SD Aftermath, Voltage and X-Factor all made it through day one undefeated.  Four of these teams achieved that status as a team they played forfeited. 

Semi-Pro is a much tighter division.  Twenty-three teams competed, in this group.  With the relatively small size, the chances of finishing in the top three, and becoming eligible to play pro in 2007 are pretty reasonable.  The leading teams, Miami Raiders, A Team and Dynasty Dynamics made it through their four Friday games without losses.

Off field the replacement of traditional dry erase marker scoreboards with rear-projection computer screens marked the growing trend in fully-automated tournament scoring displays.  The tournament trade show was filled with players and spectators wandering through booths and trailers to look at the latest products. 

While most new product releases tend to be grouped in summer or fall toward the end of the tournament season, a few products turned heads.  DYE’s i3 goggle became available in some newer, more vibrant color combinations, and the tournament coincided with a price reduction in the DM6.  Preproduction Infinity Legend paintguns made their way in and out of the Legend booth as they were field tested during the event.  Planet’s booth had players staring at the gold-trimmed XSV Ego, and WDP was still 2 weeks away from a public showing of the compact, lightweight Angel One, although word on the street said that one was being shown behind the scenes to select VIPs. 

Vengeance Paintball Distributing had a surprisingly tough road to travel getting paintballs to the event.  The company’s refrigerated semi truck was in an accident, flipping over on the highway on its way to Tampa.  A second refrigerated rig loaded with a second batch of paint was dispatched, and ended up in a minor accident which damaged its trailer, resulting in a third truck being used to transport the paint to a fourth unit where it was stored and distributed at the event.

A strong sign of tournament paintball’s growth was the presence of non-paintball companies at the event trade show.  A Texas based field and store owner commented that his field business has nearly doubled since the US Paintball Championships began airing on ESPN 2, and Tuesday morning retail sales have gone up following the Monday night airings of each new episode.  Long term success of paintball on television, and further growth of national paintball tournaments will ultimately depend on non-paintball advertising and promotion monies coming into the sport.  Just as football games on television are sponsored by companies other than football and helmet manufacturers, a similar change in paintball tournaments will allow them to expand beyond what paintball companies can afford to provide in terms of support.  In Tampa, moves in this direction were visible in a Verizon booth, and an entire trade show semi sponsored by Intel and Dell, showcasing gaming systems running Quake IV.

Adding to the trade show were a pair of stages for live musical performances.  An acoustic stage in the center of the trade show area was set up as a lounge with shaded seating where people could take a break while listening relaxed music.  In contrast the main stage at the south end of the venue was set up for high energy, high volume rock, though the late afternoon Friday performance had a band cranking out the music to less than a dozen audience members.  Meanwhile the grandstands overlooking the paintball games were well filled.

As the tournament crowds grew and the good weather continued on Saturday, divisional teams completed their preliminary round games, and the pros started their prelims, due to wrap in a single day.

From Division III the top 16 teams moved up to Sunday’s quarterfinal games.  187 cRew and Team Never were the division leaders, after an undefeated round.  Victory grabbed the number 16 position, edging out Crims Factory by 5 points.  Dynasty Entourage topped Division II, along with Ballistic and LTZs Destiny completing the preliminary round with no losses.  Minneapolis finished in the 16th slot, clearing past NE United with a healthy 64-point lead.

Only one team was undefeated in the Division I finals – that was top ranked HK by  E-Jam Vendetta held a 10 point lead over, ensuring themselves a position in the quarterfinals, at the 16th position.  The semi-pro teams, with their smaller group were fighting for only eight quarterfinal spots.  A Team made it through undefeated and grabbed the first seat, followed by Dynasty Dynamics and the Miami Raiders.  Infamy took the fateful eighth slot pushing out United by 4 points.

All eighteen pro teams played, but did so in two separate divisions, the top four from each being flagged as semifinalists for Sunday.  San Diego Dynasty finished with the highest rank, the only team to play without a loss.  Pittsburgh All Americans, New York NRG and Stockholm Joy Division advanced from the first division.  From the second division Oakland Empire, St. Louis Avalanche, Ironmen and Sacramento XSV had the nod to move on.

Sunday arrived with some clouds in the sky, and temperatures still in the upper eighties, but with low humidity – good conditions for a paintball tournament.  With the preliminary games out of the way, the time had come for the quarterfinals.

Division III quarterfinals were fierce.  Teams were grouped in divisions of four teams each.  Every team played the other three teams in its division.  Based on total score, the top team from each division went on to the semifinals – meaning that three games sent three quarters of the remaining teams home.  This put Team Never, 1 Up Kids, AB Reckless and No Limit Soldiers in the semis.

The same ratios applied in Division II.  Hogan’s Alley, Ballistic, Dynasty Entourage and Rock-It Kids cleared their divisions and moved up to the semis.  Division I, trimmed down its 16 teams to Voltage, X Factor, SD Aftermath and FEP Quest.  Quarterfinals were not so harsh on the semi-pro teams, where only half were sent home.  Playing in two divisions, the top two teams from each advanced to the semis.  This sent Dynasty Dynamics, A Team, Infamy and Fury.  

The pros had a larger quarterfinal round, where teams that had been in separate schedule divisions during the prelims were not given the opportunity to play against each other.  After playing against all seven of the other quarterfinalists, Sacramento XSV came out on top.  They were followed by Ironmen, San Diego Dynasty and the Pittsburgh All Americans, who bumped out Oakland Empire with a sound 113-point lead.  

In the semifinals, the best quarterfinalist, based on total score faced the worst, while the middle two faced each other.  In a best two out of three games, winners were paired together for the finals where the best two out of three games would determine first and second place.  The losers of the semifinals similarly played each other for third and fourth place.

In Division III, Team Never took down No Limit Soldiers twice in a row, and AB Reckless did the same to 1 Up Kids.  In their finals games 1 Up win the first game, followed by a tie, and then another win for 1 Up Kids, placing 1 Up in third place and No Limit Soldiers in Fourth.  AB Reckless fell in their first finals game but rallied for the second.  The third game was won by Team Never who took home the first place trophy for D III.

Hogan’s Alley took it to Rock-It Kids twice in a row as the Division II semifinals rolled into play.  Ballistic beat Dynasty Entourage back to back.  Double wins put Dynasty Entourage in third place and Rock It Kids in third.  Hogan’s Alley’s first game against Ballistic ended without a pull or hang – most players would call it a tie, but Hogan’s won on body count, earning more points, which is all that matters in the finals.  After another win, they had finished the tournament in first place.  

Division I semifinals saw Voltage beating FEP Quest twice – the second game a max.  X Factor fell their first game against SD Aftermath, turned things around for their second game, but dropped the third.  They won both of their finals games though, taking home the third place trophy with FEP in fourth.  SD Aftermath beat Voltage in their first finals game.  They dropped the second and had a nailbiter third.  The game came down to the wire, without a flag hang, but Aftermath had the points they needed for the win, becoming the first place team.

A win, a loss and another win was how Dynasty Dynamics fared against Fury in the semis.  Meanwhile A Team bounced back and forth against Infamy first winning, then losing and winning again.  In the finals Fury fell to Infamy their first game, but powered through the next two for third place.  A Team beat Dynasty Dynamics in their first finals game, and tied 15 to 15 in the second.  The third game, and the semipro trophy went to A Team.

The big action of course was seen in the professional semifinals and finals games.  Sacramento XSV beat the Pittsburgh All Americans in a pair of wins.  Ironmen versus San Diego Dynasty resulted in a first game win on body count going to Dynasty, followed by a full win.  The Ironmen beat the All As in their first game, but not the next two, finishing in fourth behind third placed Pittsburgh.  Two games in a row went in favor of XSV putting them in first place and Dynasty in second.  Finishing in the same positions as Huntington Beach further cemented these two teams’ order in the season rankings.

With plenty of off-field celebration after the games, Tampa was far from the end of the year for the teams competing in the NPPL.  Three more tournaments remain to round out the season, with the next event to be held on the grounds outside of Gillette Stadium in historic Boston, Massachusetts.   One if by bunker – two if by snake the British crew from Pure Promotions is coming, and bringing a paintball tournament with it

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