Southwest Colorado is known for outdoor recreation, but one local business owner decided the area needed more activities that appealed to children.
Southwest Paintball opened in early May, right in Bayfield resident John White’s own backyard. With acres of farmland, he decided to pursue his dream of opening his own paintball field. White and his wife, Colleen, ran DHL Garden Supply on Bodo Drive until closing the store in December to pursue opening a paintball field.
“I always joke that I went from a retail guru to a smile facilitator. And it’s a lot more fun to be a smile facilitator than make somebody else money,” White said.
For White, it was a perfect business opportunity because it is a relatively untapped market in Southwest Colorado. Pinion Flats Camp Paintball in Dolores is the only other paintball field in the region.
Because of Bayfield’s closer proximity to Durango, which is Southwest Colorado’s largest town, it made sense for White to try to bring another sport to the area where people can be outdoors.
“It’s crazy this area really has nothing to do for kids,” White said. “It’s funny because at the same time, we have more outdoor activities than any other area I’ve ever lived.”
It appears White may have a point, as there are limited places that offer activities geared toward children, especially during the summer season. Purgatory offers activities like the Alpine Slide and Mountain Coaster in addition to its many mountain bike trails. There are also water activities like rafting with the multiple companies in town.
Serious Texas BBQ in south Durango has miniature golf, but a traditional family fun center is seemingly lacking. This is where White feels like his business can provide the region with a valuable entertainment source for families.
Running an outdoor paintball field can come with challenges, though, especially with Southwest Colorado’s weather.
“Our season is so small, and some years we have an early spring or late spring, or early winter or late winter, and both of those are going to cut into business,” White said.
It is something he finds funny, because he is hoping for rain but also wants the dry weather for paintball.
White has two different fields located at his farm in Bayfield. One is an inflatable tournament field, while the other is a junkyard field where participants use random objects like water barrels to shelter themselves from the onslaught of paintballs.
To participate, it costs $30 per person, but there’s also an additional $50 to $75 cost to purchase paintballs, with each case containing 2,000 rounds. Price ranges are based on the type of paintballs a customer buys.
White said those participating must purchase paintballs from the business. He says this helps him ensure that everyone is on a fair playing field and that they’re safe.
The guns rented out by Southwest Paintball use a chronograph that checks to ensure the guns are shooting at the same speed.
Now three months into business, White says things are starting to pick up for the paintball establishment. Southwest Paintball recently hosted events for SunUte Community Center and Bayfield Gymnastics group.
He said advertising has been among the challenges so far. He said he’s spent a lot of time hosting Bayfield block parties where they show off the gear and sell guns to people who are interested.