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On the scene coverage, 2003 IAO

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2003 DraXxus International Amateur Open Industry Conference
by Bill Mills

One of the activities that sets the International Amateur Open apart from other tournaments is the paintball industry presence.  This is largely due to the industry conference held on the first day of the tournament.  For 12 years, this event has gathered paintball dealers and field owners from across the US, Canada, and even from other continents.  Debra Krisschke of Team Effort Events opened the meeting in the main banquet room of the Four Points Sheraton hotel in Cranberry, PA.  Krischke noted that sponsors of the conference have come and gone over the years, but a constant helping support the event either through direct sponsorship, or less visible methods like this year’s mailings promoting the conference.  She thanked Johnny Postorivo who was in attendance, for National’s constant support.  

Kim Heretick of Toledo Indoor Paintball took to the stage to introduce the presenters in the new product parade.

Hybrid products – founded by Paintball Junkies’ original owner, and fueled by the support of “Little” John Marques of the Oakland Assassins, Hybrid is producing new Autococker compatible paintguns.

Ken Chamberlain introduced Worr Game’s Products 2004 new products video.  The video featured the Worr Blade electronic trigger system for the Autococker.  This grip starts with the E-Blade from Planet, built into a frame designed by WGP with some innovative features including an integrated dovetail on the bottom so that dovetail mount compressed air systems can slide right onto the grip.  The video also introduced the VF Tactical Autococker.  WGP has been supporting and learning from the scenario paintball market through sponsoring events for years and a close relationship with the Sin Sity Raiders scenario paintball team.  The have put what they learned into a Vertical Feed Autococker built specifically for scenario players.  Its features include a new milling designs, back angled vertical adapter and a lower front accessory rail for items like tactical flashlights.

Hammer Head barrels – Robert Judson introduced Hammerhead’s Rifled barrel with reverse angled choke, and showed a short video highlighting its accuracy and self cleaning features.

Craig Miller – DraXxus – unveiling 2 new paint brands.  Hellfire has been their top brand, very brittle but hard to stock in stores because it would break in shipping and storage or only low pressure guns, it also had the drawback of complaints over staining.  “New Hellfire” features a more robust shell, and a fill in the same bright color, but much less likely to stain.  Blaze DraXxus field grade paint is now being produced in 8 protected “field paint only” colors with a “field paint only” package sold only to field owners with a slightly reduced wholesale cost to field owners only.

Craig Miller also appeared representing Brimstone Enterprises, as president and partner with Milt Call.  In addition to Brimstone’s Ultimate Airball bunkers announced Brimstone’s Ultimate Thunderdome paintball cages that allow for a fully enclosed field.  These are the cages that debuted at the 2003 Ultimate Madness.

Craig Miller made a third appearance representing Smokin’ Paintball in which he is a silent partner along with Milt Call and Pat O’Toole.  Smokin’s new C4 mod for the Matrix is claimed to give up to 200 additional shots per tank fill by increasing gas efficiency.

Bernie from Allen Paintball Products announced 2BS tubes, a new tube that can be custom made with store logos on the tube body.

Art Demarco from A+ Anodizing showed a power point presentation about their anodizing services available to retailers as a ready to operate program where paintball stores can offer custom andodizing services without any up front costs, and a 14 day turnaround guarantee.

Jack Rice from Alien Paintball has been making the rounds at paintball events for the last year showing a prototype of the Alien.  The marker made its official debut at the conference.  The highlighted features includes a new and innovative feed system, a total length of 10.5 inches, rugged construction and electronics designed by Jim Drew of Wicked Air Sports who was quoted as saying that the Alien is the fastest cycling paintgun ever produced.

Tim Warford introduced a paintball point of sale software package from a company with a very easy to remember name –  Warford’s brother performed a live demonstration on the software on the conference’s video projector.  The demo showed how, in just a couple of minutes the software could be simply set up with little computer knowledge to provide a complete point of sale solution for paintball stores with extra features like over 100 paintgun technical manuals directly accessible as PDF documents that can be called up from the system.  It is distributed through American Paintball Supply, or available direct from, including a 15 day free use demo.

Mike Stover from Paintball Laser Art.  Stover introduced himself as having played paintball since 1980.  Not only does Paintball Laser Art do laser engraving of logos and text onto anodized aluminum or steel, brass, titanium plastic, they also sell and lease the laser engraving machines which are controlled from a standard PC with traditional printer drivers to allow any graphics or text to be market permanently on the paintgun or accessory.

Crossman Airguns, owners of the Sheridan product line made decisions in 2003 to move into the modern world of paintball rather than just marketing the PGP, and XGS paintguns.  They have introduced the Game Face product line.  Game Face Impulse, produced by Smart Parts for the Game Face Brand.  The Skull goggle from Airtech Industries is also now coming out under the Game Face Brand, in a variety of colors including their new 3D carbon fiber pattern.  Crossman holds an estimated 75% of the world’s 12 gram CO2 cartridge market – manufactured at the rate of 112,000 per day.  Their new 3.8 ounce disposable CO2 cartridge is being produced to sell through stores who do not currently have the apparatus for bulk CO2 fills.  The adapter for the disposable cartridge features a floating pin system as a safety feature so that it will not pierce the cartridge until the cartridge is screwed into a paintgun.  As an extra safety feature 4 blow off holes in the adapter prevent the tank from taking off like a missile if unscrewed while full.  Many of their new products, including the Game Face Impulse and Skull goggles are being showcased by Crossman’s NXL professional X Ball team – Detroit Thunder.

Debra Krischke introduced the Fire Dancer, a small propane powered portable fire pit that has the feel of a campfire for heat and light.  Anyone who remembers what Taco Bells were like before the early 1970’s energy crisis will remember what open gas bonfires are like.  The Fire Dancer’s manufacturers tout it as an alternative to wood campfires in places where they are not legal or practical because it does not emit sparks or smoke.

John Knap of announced PB Nation’s new print magazine – Pbnation which is being launched by a free giveaway of the first issue to online requests, and on site at the IAO.

Joshua from Off The Break, a new manufacturing company showed their new vertical trigger frame for the Matrix, BKO, and several other makers, as well as their own new marker, the Advent, billed as “The lightest gun you will ever hold,” with all Delrin internals.

Larry Alexander from AKALMP started out by announcing that, “I just want to say, before you hear this anywhere else that we are the self proclaimed Low Pressure Experts,” which received a good laugh as that has been the company’s catch phrase for many years.  New from AKALMP are pressure compensating low pressure regulators designed to provide a very stable output pressure with high flow rates for a wide variety of paintguns.

Debra Krischke then took to the stage to announce the industry Lifetime Achievement awards, who are chosen form nominees picked by past recipients.  The first recipient, was Dan Colby of Air America who was noted for pioneering systems for making CO2 a more stable power source for paintguns, and then fighting the battle to get compressed air accepted and used safely in paintball.  Supporting teams and events with air systems and air fills pushed compressed air into the mainstream as the power source for tournament paintball.  Colby, who was unaware that the award was coming was speechless at points while accepting the award, thankful for the friends he has made in the industry.  Mike Ratko, who has worked for RP Scherer, Zap Paintballs, and now Procaps (DraXxus) while usually not in the headlines has been very involved in the development of the ASTM standards for the paintball industry, the development of the X Ball rules.  Krischke noted that many of Ratko’s achievements go unnoticed or credited to someone else.  Ratko thanked those who have known and supported him over the years.

After a short break, the conference resumed with a presentation about IALEI, the 10 year old International Association For The Leisure and Entertainment Industry.  When Krischke introduced the group she rightly noted that many attempts to create paintball industry groups in the past have failed due to political motivations or perceptions behind the parties involved in their leadership.  IALEI, approaching from outside the paintball industry, but still dealing with the same entertainment customer base held promise, according to Krischke as an organization for industry market research, national marketing and lobbying.

Jack Cohen, president of IALEI gave a briefing about the group.  It is operated by a board consisting of owners of family entertainment complexes.  IALEI’s membership includes owners of amusement parks, arcades, fun centers, go cart tracks, paintball fields, miniature golf courses, and similar facilities.  One of the group’s main functions is education for its members.  Their training programs and seminars include setting up self contained playgrounds, business plans, operation’s manuals (many paintball fields become staff dependant by not developing methods and records to quickly and consistently train new employees) hosting profitable and effective birthday parties (as Krischke noted, a dozen screaming 10 year olds have the same many of the same sales, service and supervision needs at a pizza arcade as a paintball field) and obtaining affordable insurance through insurance companies who are choosing to partner with IALEI to support its members.  Cohen presented a video about Hollywood Sports Park which opened with Arnold Schwarzenegger hosting the Inner City Games.  Cohen used Hollywood Sports as an example to how food service, product sales, and additional sports like wall climbing, BMX and other activities can add profits to existing paintball parks.  The IALEI’s upcoming Fun Expo conference in Las Vegas will feature both lectures on developing these sorts of profit centers as well as showcasing products and services available to entertainment center operators.  Giovani Degidio spoke briefly about the involvement he and Dennis Bukowski have had with IALEI.  As the first paintball member of the association, the pair found their membership to open doors with city officials to grand clearance for the creation of Hollywood Sports Park, and they now sit on the IALEI board of directors and have established a paintball committee within the organization consisting of key members of the industry.  Degegidio says that he and Bukowski have been consulting over the last year for fun centers who are adding paintball, and expects that the involvement of paintball manufacturers at the Fun Expo is going to open doors to this new customer base of family fun centers expanding into paintball. 

The conference then broke into discussion groups held in several rooms.

In the Manufacturer’s Discussion group Mike Ratko and Bud Orr led discussions on new changes in the ASTM standards relating to paintball, and what effect they are expected to have on various businesses in the industry.  The pair also explained the purpose and structure of the ASTM.  Many people are under the impression that the ASTM tests and enforces products.  It is actually a body which produces standards.  Testing and compliance with the standards is a choice of manufacturers and business owners and or their insurance companies.  With a committee of leaders from the paintball industry who each go out and talk to others within the industry, the ASTM’s paintball subcommittee has published, and is working on publishing more standards for the sport that deal with both player safety, and simple standardization (like the ASA connector – so a player knows that one CO2 tank will screw into any paintgun – because the connection is standardized.)  One of the key items covered are the development of standards for the threaded interface between compressed air cylinders and regulators, as some accidents have occurred where incorrectly threaded regulators have sheared their threads, tearing free from the bottle under pressure.  By setting a standard with the input of the manufacturers in the industry, the ASTM paintball committee’s hope is that manufacturers will comply to the standard preventing such accidents in the future.  Ratko addressed another issue, in that the industry’s standards can only make a difference where they are used and enforced, he cited paintball eye injury statistics showing that 97% of paintball eye injuries recorded did not happen on commercially operated paintball fields.  The pair also recapped standards that can be issued so far and some of the effects they have had.  These have included standards for goggle lens retention and testing, ASA threads, field operation, paintgun labeling, unified burst disks and more.  The burst disks were a subject of discussion.  With the burst disks used with CO2 tanks, it is critical that the burst disk nut be matched to the disk (there are different types with radiused or flat edges and these will effects their burst pressure) and that the torque must match the manufacturer’s specifications.  The unified burst disk standard, which Ratko credited Chris Havlock of Crossfire as having helped with is specifying burst disks that are manufactured attached to their nut to avoid mismatches, and new threading standards are being considered to prevent mismatches between disk burst ratings and tank valve ratings.  Some of the most recent standards include guidelines to properly install paintball netting, as well as a field netting strength testing standard.  A key item noted there was that fire codes in most areas have additional flammability requirements for indoor field use.  The specification for barrel blocking devices defines a barrel can’t be dislodged by a paintball shot.  This standard doesn’t require them to be soft devices, like bag style blockers, but also allows plastic barrel plugs, squeegees or other devices as long as there are leashes or attachment methods preventing them from being dislodged.  The most recent standard – 2272 defines a paintball marker, which includes a barrel blocking device included in the packaging, trigger guards, velocity adjusters that can’t be accessed without substantial disassembly or tools, semi automatic or pump action function only (enhanced modes are defined, largely as a point to show that they do not qualify as semi auto,) safeties that have to withstand a 30lb trigger pull, consumer labels and warnings as well as other features.

Kim Heretick, of Toledo Indoor Paintball led the field operations discussion dealing with the nuts and bolts of successful field operation.  Portions of that session included dealing most profitably with manufacturers and distributors.  Johnny Postorivo of National Paintball Supply was able to provide a distributor’s perspective and discuss some of the 

Dan Colby and his staff from Air America, led a workshop on compressed air safety dealing with topics including accident prevention and proper choices of fittings and fill procedures. 

Alan Ramsay, president of CLM Entertainment dealt with a topic many paintball fields have missed – operation of a profitable food and beverage operation.  He pointed out food profit areas that many are missing – selling a single slice of pizza made at the field instead of having it delivered can show a profit of over 400%.  Ramsay’s presentation also addressed issues of obtaining the proper equipment needed for food preparation (much of which he explained can be obtained for free from the suppliers of the particular food products) 

After a catered lunch, Dr. Kevin Elko, a sports psychologist delivered the conference’s keynote speech.  Elko serves as a sports psychologist for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and has spoken at the IAO in the past.  He discussed winning every day with vision and focus, stressing the importance of a positive outlook toward achieving goals for success in business.

The conference then broke again into two more sessions in separate meeting rooms.  Drum Taylor covered the topic of legal issues facing manufacturers, specifically liability issues they may be likely to face.

Givanni Degidio led a session talking about incorporating paintball into multi-sport parks the way Hollywood Sports Park and several of his consulting customers have done.

Paintball 2 Xtremes editor John Amodea and Rene Boucher, publisher and editor of Paintball News led a discussion group on paintball field marketing.  They touched on methods for nationally marketing fields, most of which are free, and are as simple as preparing and sending press releases to paintball magazines and web sites.  

James Kimmel (not the Jimmy Kimmel of late night talk show fame) is a buyer working for Dick’s Sporting Goods, the presenting sponsor of the Amateur Open.  Kimmel presented on the topic of marketing specifically to Dick’s sporting goods.  This information, for manufacturers and distributors applied of course not only to Dick’s but also to other mainstream chain stores and covered the kinds of things they look for in sales contracts that are very different than traditional paintball stores.

Dorothy Lewis from Fun Station USA, a chain of New York amusement centers led a session about how to market to groups, and cross market activities for increased sales.

Another key way for paintball fields to increase their business is by hosting paintball tournaments.  Representatives from the Indiana Captain's Council led discussions on how to work with leagues to to host tournaments.

Rob Levine and Angelo Coleca of Sterling and Sterling, Inc., an insurance agency that works with IALEI partnered teams gave a talk about insurance.  They didn’t just talk about their insurance programs, they went in depth into the reasons for insurance, and how to shop for insurance that is right for a business.

While the conference officially ended by 5:00, many conversations continued as attendees meandered into the Shearaton’s atrium bar and restaurant.  The official end of day activity was a poolside cocktail party hosted by National Paintball Supply.

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