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County’s first paintball facility on its way

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ELIZABETH HEFFNER
Staff Writer

Lincoln County’s first professional paintball facility is expecting to open its doors this fall.
Owner John “Kirk” Bailey received the green light from the county’s Board of Commissioners at the June 16 meeting, where they unanimously voted to approve his conditional use permit for Lake Norman Paintball.
Having acquired the commissioners’ approval, Bailey can now move forward with his construction plans.
While Bailey was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina, his family has ties to Lincoln County that span several generations.
To his knowledge, his great-great-great grandfather, Peter Forney, originally purchased several hundred acres of land. The family’s house, situated across from the 30-acre future paintball facility property, was built in 1885 to serve as the first post office in Stanley.
In 2009, Bailey chose to return to his family’s home in Stanley after he was offered a restaurant management position at his company’s new Charlotte location.
Prior to that, he worked for four years with the business as a regional manager for the Spartanburg-Greenville area.
After five years at the restaurant’s Charlotte location, Bailey decided to part ways with corporate America in February.
“I learned a lot from corporate America, so I felt like I could use my management skills in a self-employed business,” he said.
After parting ways with the company, Bailey began brainstorming ways to utilize his management skills, his love of paintball as a sport and culture and his family’s land, without hurting the peace and tranquility of the property. Bailey has spent the past 14 years cultivating his passion for the sport, and he believes the exhilarating game will be a great addition to the activities available for local teenagers and young adults.
In his business plan, Bailey said paintball has shown to be a growing sport over the past decade.
“With people trying to encourage healthier behaviors and to cut back on the video games and couch lounging, paintball has shown to be a sport that’s appealing to players of all ages and offers that real ‘Modern Warfare’ experience,” he said. “The demand for a field in this area is high, which would make this the center stage of paintball for surrounding communities. Heavy growth in Huntersville, Denver and Charlotte are bringing in a high volume of people in paintball’s common age range (of) 14-60, making this a prestige location.”
According to Bailey, the closest paintball facility to Lincoln County and major cities such as Charlotte is in Gastonia.
“Our main competitive edge is our location,” Bailey said. “Being the only paintball facility in the Lake Norman area and the closest one to the nation’s number one growing city, Charlotte, is key to our competitive edge. Lake Norman’s surrounding areas have many upper class families in the area and are looking to get out and enjoy outdoor activities, with the financial backing to do so. Residents in Charlotte and immediate surrounding areas fit the bill for which we’ll be attracting as well, and being just a short 25 minute drive straight up Highway 16 makes us an easy choice for them to come here.”
According to Bailey, the sport’s peak seasons are spring, summer and fall, but he is not opposed to staying open in the winter if he finds there is a demand for it. The facility will offer at least two outdoor speedball fields, each field being approximately 150 feet by 75 feet in size. Inflatable bunkers and flat, even terrain are two key features of a traditional speedball field.
The facility will also have two separate woods ball fields, which offers bunkers and obstacles in a wooded setting with uneven terrain.
Unlike the paintball facilities Bailey has visited and researched, Lake Norman Paintball will offer parents and spectators a lounge area, featuring a covered deck with furniture, a snack bar and televisions.
While he anticipates a large percentage of his patrons will be teenagers and young adults, Lake Norman Paintball’s facility will also be open to hosting corporate and leadership training events, walk-on play, professional tournaments, birthdays and bachelor parties. With his standard operating hours taking place over the weekend, Bailey also plans to offer an RSVP service on weekdays during the summer and spring break, which would allow interested teams to pay online and request a time slot.
While prices have yet to be finalized, Bailey anticipates players with their own paintball guns will pay $7 for their field pass and $7 for their paintball gun’s carbon dioxide or compressed air. Those without paintball equipment should expect to pay $20 for their equipment rental, protective gear, field pass and paintball gun’s air. Bailey is still working on finalizing the cost of paintballs.
“I’m doing this to bring a fun activity to our kids in a safe environment,” he said.
Currently, Bailey is looking to recruit two hardworking and dedicated part-time employees to assist him in the day-to-day business. Interested applicants should have paintball knowledge from either work experience or participation in the sport. Those interested in learning more about employment opportunities with Lake Norman Paintball as well as general inquiries about the future facility should email Kirk Bailey at kirk2b@gmail.com

Image courtesy of Jaclyn Anthony / Lincoln Times-News

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