Paintball, once the fastest growing extreme sport in North America, seems to be heading the other direction, and gaining momentum.
Word on the streets is that Smart Parts laid off its last employees. Once a powerhouse in the paintball industry, now is history. JT recently closed its paint manufacturing plant in Neosho, Missouri. Walmart is rumored to be eliminating paintball from it’s shelves (most likely one of the main reasons for the JT plant shut down). Leagues have been seeing less and less attendance. The number of pro teams is down and will be down further this year, by most indications. I have heard of more fields and stores shutting down in the past year than ever before.
How will this affect the rest of us in the industry? Time will tell. Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball. Did I predict, several years ago, that the industry would waiver at some point if it continued down the path it was on? Sure, but so did others. Apparently the people running big industry did not see it coming. Either that or their efforts were not enough to alter the course. Do I feel sorry for them? Yeah. A bit. The industry downturn was not the fault of any one entity. Stopping it or turning the downturn around is also very difficult of any one, or even a conglomerate of entities.
Did the downturn in the economy have anything to do with this? Sure, but not as much as most people think. Our field had a great year and I know of several other field owners I have been in contact with that have also had good years. Sales have not dropped off for everyone.
So what’s up? Is this the beginning of the end for our beloved sport? Will paintball be nowhere to be seen after a few more faltering years? Is this a Doomsday Report? No, I don’t think so. Paintball is going through a correction period, the way I see it. We, as an industry, made some poor decisions and took some wrong turns. They didn’t seem like bad decisions at the time. Obviously! Otherwise, why would anyone have made them? Nevertheless, poor decisions they were. Hindsight has 20/20 vision though, right? Now we’ll be able to go back and make the correct turns.
Actually, I’m not all that sure about that. I still think most in the industry, maybe even the biggest decision makers in the industry, have very little clue about why we are in the position we are in today. I know most field and store owners have no clue. Am I worried? Not for myself or our little field. As long as I can get paint, replenish our rental markers and masks, we’ll keep plodding along. It’s every man for himself (don’t take that too seriously. It’s not like I’m not beating the drum).
Paintball will remain. Will it ever flourish like it has? I don’t know. I do believe the current industry wide closures that seem to be taking place mark the end of an era. Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see if the next era will be as strong, or possibly stronger.
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