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Pan Am Las Vegas 2002
December 4-8, 2002
Las Vegas, NV
10 Man Top Teams
5 Man Top Teams
Young Guns - Black Magic
AKALMP 1on1 Joust - Josh Sells
Ricochet UV Night Shot - Bonebrake Factory Team
The Pan Am Circuit returned to Las Vegas for the 2002 series finals tournament. This year's venue was the The Sport Center, located just south of McCarran International Airport, just a block off of the Las Vegas strip. Considering that the Pan Am Circuit is a direct off-shoot from the Great Western Series which was founded in 1991, this event marked the 11th year for the league, an unprecedented life span in the sport of paintball. The circuit has undergone many changes over the years. Initially founded by Action Pursuit Games magazine's first editor, Russell Maynard the GWS grew over the years as a west coast circuit, with Dan Bonebrake becoming a partner in the 1997 season. In 1999, the GWS evolved into the Pan Am with the addition of Liz Bonebrake and Jessica Sparks as partners. Ironically Sparks also is a past editor of Action Pursuit Games magazine, and currently serves as assistant editor of that publication, while also holding the position of editor of Paintball Magazine.
With the formation of the Pan Am in 1999, the series was expanded to events across the US, not just the west coast. It was not well received east of the Rockies. Midwest and east coast players weren't generally accepting of the Pan Am's lower cost bring your own paint, limited paint format. The following 2000 season, the circuit returned to its west coast schedule, and has been following it since.
The Pan Am is somewhat unique in its structure of holding both major and affiliated tournaments. The major events are produced by the Pan Am staff, and teams participating in them both as players and referees earn points toward the annual series titles. Additionally, the Pan Am sanctions affiliate tournaments that are produced by teams competing in the Pan Am, or by fields or stores. These events use the Pan Am rules and Player ID system. The affiliate tournaments provide an additional limited number of points toward the annual series (these are scored in the participation category), and offer a way for Pan Am member teams to raise team funds in order to travel to Pan Am majors and other tournaments.
The Sport Center first saw paintball use for the 2001 Pan Am finals, with a single indoor field, and the remainder of the fields made from dirt and concrete rubble berms, as well as inflatable bunkers in the dirt lot immediately behind the complex. In the spring of 2002, Paintball Sports Promotions held their Las Vegas tournament at the same location, using earth moving equipment to level the dirt lot and net it for inflatable fields. With the heat of Las Vegas in the spring time, and a rocky surface left behind from the ground leveling, the spring event met with much criticism.
For the winter Pan Am return, yet another configuration was in order. The lot behind the complex was no longer available, with a new building under construction there. A fenced in grass yard immediately behind the The Sport Complex building which had only been used for team staging in the past, became a grass surface playing field with DYE's Sup'Air bunkers during the 10 man competition, with a second field going in for the 5 man. One of the complex' two go-cart tracks was covered in artificial turf and low pile carpeting as it was converted into a pair of fields.
Inside, the roller hockey arena was outfitted for use as an indoor 5 man field which would also once again host the AKA Excalibur Joust 1 on 1 competition. Now in its second year, the one on one competition had stands full of spectators cheering and screaming for the players the year before.
With real indoor rest rooms, a full snack bar, a bar and grill, indoor rock climbing, arcade, go-cart racing, batting cages, and miniature golf, The Sport Center still had room for a paintball trade show in climate controlled comfort.
10 man games began a bit after 8:00 am on Wednesday morning with one rookie and three novice/amateur divisions. The weather proved to be ideal for paintball, with nearly clear skies and temperatures in the 70s.
KAPP Kids, Splat Factory and Outlaw
were the early leaders in the rookie class. Check It Factory, Aftermath
and Urban Quest 1 were the novice/am leaders. The number of 10 man
teams meant that one division included two novice teams and eight
Lack of sound judgment reared its head on Wednesday afternoon as a player decided the provided chronograph range was not good enough for gun testing, and decided to shoot at one of the floodlights of the neighboring golf course. In addition to the vandalism issues this brought up, not all of the paintballs hit their target, and one stuck a golfer in the chest. For the operators of the Sport Complex, where a permanent paintball facility is being planned, this was a very serious issue. Fortunately for the shooter, the golfer was not injured or seriously upset, and no assault or vandalism charges were pressed. The Pan Am staff reacted quickly to the situation, tracking down the player and responding with its no tolerance policy. The player's (name withheld due to being a minor) team captain chose to eject the player from the event, rather than face ejection for their entire team.
Thursday's weather proved as terrific for paintball as Wednesday's. More vendors began appearing, setting up booths inside the Sport Center, in addition to those who set up show trailers in the parking lot. As the teams completed their preliminary games, they vied for position in the semifinals and finals. The novice teams would play two game semifinals, while the rookie and amateur teams, owing to their smaller numbers progressed straight to two game finals rounds.
Fatal Swoop B, Aftermath, and Wicked Junkies each topped their divisions going into the novice semifinals. Aftermath and Swoop held their top spots and advanced to the finals. In the third novice semi division it was the bottom ranked Old School Hustle that won their two games to move on to the finals.
Rookies went straight to finals and Splat Factory came in with the top rank but was displaced by the Outlaws who finished in first. KAPP Kids finished in third.
The novice finals saw the same pattern of finish as the rookies. Fatal Swoop was top ranked, but finished second. Aftermath came in ranked second and finished in first, and Old School Hustle finished in third, the same position in which they were ranked at the start.
The amateur teams finished their finals exactly as they ranked going in. KAPP Factory took first place, Check It Factory second, and Urban Quest I third.
The 5 man competition began Friday in what would be a longer day for the event. The first day of preliminaries was graced with even more good paintball weather, and the AKA Excalibur Joust meant that the Sport Center would be active well into the night.
The first day's 5 man games were played by the amateur and novice teams. During the morning games most teams which faced three opponents posted two wins and a loss, or a win and two losses. There were a few stand-outs with only wins, and these teams included CP Factory, Bushwackers WGP, and Team RM. KAPP Factory Red, Ambush, X Code, CP Factory 602, Menace, Fatal Swoop B and Falcon's Fury were amongst the teams which only had two morning games, but posted a pair of victories.
The most entertaining move of the day came when Outkast played Phoenix Heat B on the JT field. The game came down to a two on one situation. Heat's last player was in a short center bunker one third up the field. He was concentrating on Outkast's player on his left tape, when the other Outkast player ran past him to bunker him on the right. The Outkast player's gun mis-fired and the run went unnoticed by the Heat Player. The Outkast player, now in open center backfield and unnoticed skidded to a stop, then crept up on the Phoenix Heat B player, shooting him twice in the butt.
Game play went on into the afternoon as the skies grew overcast and the temperature cooled. Bushwackers WGP kept their winning streak running through the afternoon, as did KAPP Factory Red. Amongst the novices Team RM, X-Code, Fatal Swoop B, and KAPP Factory Blue managed the same feat. The rookies would see their first games on Saturday.
After the day's 5 man games wrapped up, the competition moved indoors for the AKALMP Excalibur joust. Players went head to head in a one on one single elimination tournament. The paintguns each player used were Excalibur electropneumatic semis provided by the event sponsor, AKALMP. Paint for the competition, blue Anarchy, sponsored by Nelson Paint. Rather than use a full field, the joust was set up linearly, like a medieval joust. The field was approximately 15 feet wide, running the length of the indoor 5 man field. It had a row of can shaped Ultimate Airball bunkers, and the two competitors weaved left and right through them to face off in the middle. One hit, and the player was out of the tournament. The bleachers filled quickly, and the fans cheered their favorites on to victory.
The field of more than 30 competitors was whittled down to four finalists. These played matches to knock out the third and fourth place winners who went head to head to determine their rank. These were Mike Rollo and John Powell. Rollo won their game grabbing third place. This left John Sells and Bryan Cole (not BC from Dynasty). The two players posed up for photos and then parted to their ends of the field and went at it. Sells charged the length of the field quickly, while Cole played more defensively from his end. The referees looked over both players and declared Sells the winner. The top for ranked players received prizes with first place consisting of a ready to go AKALMP Excalibur.
Friday night saw more of the Pan Am's no tolerance policy. During the joust Marcus Nielson (a professional ranked player who has played for teams including Aftershock, and Ground Zero) disagreed with a referee's call. His reaction, which included kicking over a bunker, throwing his goggles across the field, and flipping off the audience, resulted in his ejection not only from the one on one, but also from the remainder of the Las Vegas event on grounds of unsportsmanlike conduct.
Saturday morning the novice and amateur teams were back at it, their preliminary games running close to schedule. The way the schedule was printed, the game times did not directly line up with the games, leading to some confusion 15 minutes in either direction. Surprisingly this had little effect on the tournament as a whole, as some fields which were running by the schedule simply thought they were 15 minutes early, while others followed it correctly. Other fields took into account the 15 minute discrepancy, and were lax when worrying about forfeits for no-shows.
The young guns 3 player competition, where all players must be 15 years or younger was played out during the day on the indoor arena field. This field was covered with thickly padded artificial turf normally used for football, and was marked with logos of the arena's sponsors and the Sport Center's logo. The bunkers used were of a new type making their first Pan Am appearance. Bunker City's new bunker system consists of three panels in various shapes, joined at the center. The panels are made of a dense semi ridged foam that has a feel similar to a wrestling or gymnastics mat, but is less flexible. With the crowds of spectators milling about the Sport Center, safety was a prime concern. An even more strict barrel cover requirement was in place. Young guns competitors leaving the netted field without their barrel blocked, would face confiscation of their paintgun until the tournament was over. One such infraction occurred on Saturday morning.
Even before the preliminary rounds were over, the Diablo Factory Team (soon to be renamed the Bonebrake Airsmithing Factory Team) earned enough points to secure the 2003 series amateur 5 man title. They came in to the tournament ranked at number two, but earned points reffing the 10 man competition which combined with their points from the 5 man prelims, locked them into first place. "I don't know how to feel yet, but when they hand us the trophy, I am going to cry," said Eric Doulder. "We dedicated our season's play to Dan Bonebrake. He is our primary sponsor and he stood behind us." For the Doulder brothers this makes the second time winning a Pan Am series title.
Novice and amateur prelims wrapped up in the afternoon, and the rookie preliminaries began. In an unusual structure for the Pan Am, 12 novice teams advanced to quarter finals rather than to semifinals directly, while the top 6 amateur teams went on to finals. These, along with the finals games, and the completion of the rookie prelims would be played on Sunday.
The young guns competition was played all day Saturday and wrapped up in the afternoon. Of the 28 young guns teams the top four in each of the two divisions advanced to sudden death finals which kept the indoor grandstands packed with cheering family members. Black Magic Young Guns made it through the finals victoriously, claiming first place.
After the young guns finished up, it was time for the Ricochet UV Night Shot tournament. The Ricochet UV loader made its official debut at the tournament, though an early prototype had been shown at the Pan Am San Diego tournament. The final production model loader is non agitating (though later models may be) and features an array of ultra-violet LEDs in its roof, and another grouping in its neck. The loader charges energy into Night Paintball's Crypt-O-Night glow in the dark paintballs. The Night Shot tournament was a two on two competition on the indoor field and proved quite a challenge for the referees who faced not only their own fatigue after reffing young guns for the full day, but also the challenge of reffing in near total darkness.
Spectators stayed through the spectacle of glowing paintballs flying back and forth through an unlit arena. Because the paintballs have a tendency to expend much of their glowing energy while sitting in the breech of the paintgun the first couple of shots were often dark, followed by a trail of glowing green. When paintballs bounced off of netting of the floor, they seemed brighter, as they were moving slower. Paint breaking on bunkers produced bright explosions that drew cheers from the crowd. The tournament was single elimination format, and was taken by the Boinebrake Factory team played by Eric Doulder and John Chavez, their second victory achieved that day.
Sunday was packed with games, both the completion of the 5 man tournament and the entire 3 on 3 stock class competition.
The stock class tournament is a regular feature in the Pan Am Circuit. Season rankings were based on the best two tournament's scores of the year plus the finals, making Las Vegas a crucial event for the teams playing the stock series. Competitors were limited to stock class equipment which means pump or bolt action, an inline feed tube parallel to the barrel holding 20 or less paintballs, and a 12 gram CO2 cartridge as a power source that must be loaded through a threaded opening that requires at least 3 full turns to be changed. Placing the games on the indoor arena field kept the stands full and cheering for the teams (coaching from the stands was allowed.) Pan Am stock class competitions are round robin format prelims going into single elimination finals. Blowfish captured first place by defeating Cobra Kai 1. ALS finished in third over Semi Sucks in second.
The rookie and novice 5 man teams went to 2 game quarter finals as a prelude to the semifinals. This round knocked half the teams out of the running, and with only two games in the round every elimination and live player was important. The semifinal rounds also were two games each and selected three finalists in each classification.
In the amateur finals Bushwackers WGP was top ranked going in, but was bested by KAPP Factory Red which took first place. CP Factory finished in third place. Similarly X-Code was the top ranked novice semifinalist, but finished in second place with the second seated Team RM grabbing the first place victory and Crushed placing in third. The rookie finalists repeated the same pattern with Max It Rookie finishing second, Bushwacker's Chop Shop in first, and KAPP Kidz in third.
Addition of quarter finals was a move designed to give more games and enjoyment to the 5 man teams, but ended up pushing game play until after dark. Fortunately, the finals fields used were covered by the Sport Complex's floodlights, allowing the games to keep going as the sun set.
Young guns and stock class awards were given to teams in the main arena while the 5 man finalists went at it under the lights outside. These were followed by the awarding of trophies and prizes for the 10 man and 5 man winners as well as series champions.
As the crowds dissipated out of the
building there were good byes, best wishes for the holidays and plans for
next season. One notable farewell was that of Pan Am partner Russell
Maynard. Las Vagas 2002 was Maynard's last Pan Am event. He
has left the promotional partnership, and will be concentrating on some
new events under the Great Western Series name. Maynard, who has
contributed much to west coast tournament paintball, and the sport of paintball
in general will be missed at the Pan Am, but is definitely not disappearing
from paintball. The Pan Am 2002 season is completed, and new changes
are in store for next year. In 2003 the 5 man competition will remain,
but the 10 man will be converted to 7 man, a move that is hoped to bring
more teams to the format, at the same time NPPL, Inc. is moving to 7 man.
Also under heavy consideration for the next year is a removal of the Pan
Am's paint restriction, allowing teams to shoot as much paint as they can
carry onto the field.
Stay Tuned to WARPIG.com for complete on-scene coverage of the Pan Am finals, live from Las Vegas.