HOLDEN, Maine — Eighth-graders at Bay Ridge Elementary in Cutler raised money for their annual class trip and chose to visit a new paintball course in Holden.
“They did a narrative essay on what they wanted to do on the class trip and this was number one,” Darlene Wheeler, Bay Ridge principal and teacher, said Thursday as the nine students ran around the newly opened paintball course behind Maine Military Supply.
The pre-K through eighth-grade school has an enrollment of 55 students and held graduation on Wednesday. The students spent Thursday night at Husson University, which they used as a homebase for their other adventures.
“This is way fun,” one student said when she exited the 3-acre paintball course that opened last week and includes a wooden castle, car and retired UH 50 helicopter as props.
“I love it,” another one said.
“I got hit on the helmet so I didn’t feel a thing,” eighth-grader and first-time paintball player Meg Moulton told Wheeler and teacher Wayne Peters, who watched from behind a black mesh wall. “It’s really fun. Sometimes it’s kind of difficult to see people [through the required face mask] but you adjust. I could hit Connor [Dennison] with it.”
Just before a girls vs. boys paintball battle that was won by the girls, eighth-grader Ashley Porter said she thought the game was really cool.
“You’re outdoors and there are obstacles you can hide behind,” the 14-year-old said. “This is awesome.”
The paintball course, open to those ages 10 and up, is phase two of a three-phase project for Maine Military Supply, said owner Frank Spizuoco. The Route 1A business moved to Holden from Brewer last year and also plans to open an indoor firing range next spring, he said.
The indoor firing range will be used for training and by customers who want to try out a weapon before purchase, Spizuoco said. He also hopes to have machine gun rentals at some point after the range is open.
The paintball course is the first in the area, he said.
“People have been hounding us hard [about opening the paintball course],” Spizuoco said.
The courses are fenced off with tall, black mesh and there are picnic tables at the entrance for those who come to watch. Each game has a referee and those who are hit — and therefore eliminated from the game — are told to cover the end of their paintball gun and exit the field with it in the air. Protective masks must be worn at all times on the course, and those who remove theirs will be asked to leave, the Maine Military Supply website states.
There are 10 acres behind the shop and Spizuoco said there is plenty of room for expansion and the addition of more courses.
The shop rents out Tippmann paintball guns, a mask and Co2 tank for $15, and also rents extra chest or neck protectors and coveralls for those who want to protect their clothing. The field fee is $15 and all the paint used must be purchased at the store, the website states. Prices for the paint are not listed.
Private parties can reserve the fields at a rate of $60 an hour for one field or the two fields can be combined into one course for $110 an hour. Paintball is open one hour after Maine Military Supply opens and closes an hour before the business does. The business hours are 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays.
The props on the fields allow for scenario play, Spizuoco said. A team from the Dexter Tri-County Technical Center played a scenario last week where one team protected the “president” and tried to get that person to the helicopter while the second group waited to ambush them, he said.
Spizuoco attempted to convince the Bay Ridge principal to participate in a similar capture game, but Wheeler declined.
“We’ll protect you,” eighth-grader Kade Feeney said.
“I think I would have got dinged a couple of times,” the principal said with a huge smile on her face.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated there are no other indoor firing ranges in the area. There is one in Hampden.