As a recreational paintball field owner, this is one of the most common questions I get asked by new, never before played, potential customers (the other one by the way is, “Does it hurt”?).
I always tell them that the cost to play will be somewhat dependant on how many paintballs they shoot and then go on to tell them how many paintballs our average player shoots and how much the total cost ends up being.
The cost to play will also be somewhat dependant on location. Real Estate cost, whether you own or lease will be a big determining factor, and the other big one is staffing costs. Minimum wage for instance differs quite a bit and the size of the available labour pool will determine how much a field owner has to spend to get good employees.
Therefore, there is no single answer for the cost to play question. It varies quite a bit. I’ve hear of the odd stock class (pump) player playing at a relatively inexpensive field and spending $20-25. Others shoot cases of paint each outing and spend well over $100 each outing. But there is an average, probably in the $50-60 range.
There is another common question I get asked and that is, “How many paintballs will I need”? Of course, that is associated with the overall cost question. The two really go hand in hand, and when I answer either one, I have usually answered the other as well, so it really depends on which question gets asked first (most often it’s the “How much does it cost?” question).
So if there are two fields, more or less side by side, one with a pricing structure based on high entry/air fees and low paintball costs, and the other with lower entry/air cost, but higher paintball costs, how do these field owners answer the “How much does it cost?” question? The cost at any field is going to be partially dependant upon paintball consumption, no matter what they cost (they have to cost something). So I am sure that all field owners are going to answer that question, if they are at all truthful, based on their customer’s average paintball consumption. Both fields will most likely have their customers spending an average dollar amount, that is probably not that much different from one another. People just aren’t going to spend twice as much at one field than another, with the possible exception of a few fields in the world that tend to be “destination” fields. These fields are so much superior to almost all others, that players will go there every once in a while just to experience that difference and will pay more occasionally. But overall, the average a player spends will be much the same. Or is it?
I believe there is a difference in average spending between regular players and new, or occasional players. Regular players are going to more cost conscious. First time players will get caught up in the excitement and will often spend over their budget. They are having so much fun, they don’t want it to stop. But I’m getting off topic and the difference between the two groups (new and regulars) isn’t huge.
Back to our two field owners with differing pricing structures. I’m sure that the owner of the higher entry/lower paint prices (we’ll call him field owner # 1) is going to throw in something like, “You will be paying $40 more at the other field for the same thing”. That would be based on the amount of paintballs the average player shoots at his field. And if you look at it in his way, he is absolutely right. So what can paintball field owner # 2 do in response to the question when he is asked? Well, first of all, he will hopefully be truthful. What I tell the potential customer is what our average customer spends and make sure they know what that includes (including the average amount of paintballs purchased/shot). I then tell them that it is probably very similar to what they will spend at any paintball field. The difference is, that at our field they will shoot less paintballs and have less paintballs shot at them. I tell them, in case they can’t figure it out for themselves, that the pricing structure is designed to cost our customers the same overall, but it keeps most of the high volume paintball players away, meaning that their experience will be more relaxed and more fun.
There seem to be many people out there, that can’t seem to understand that two fields with completely different pricing structures can exist in the same market area. The two pricing structures attract two different types of customers. Restaurants do this all the time (as do most other industries). The difference is that restaurants use pricing structure to separate by class or financial ability to pay, whereas paintball field’s differing pricing structures separate customers by preferred playing styles. At a “high priced” restaurant, customers usually pay considerably more (hopefully they get better quality food and service as well). At a “high paintball price” paintball field, customers do not necessarily spend more, their consumption/usage of paintballs changes. This changes the playing style and overall atmosphere at the field.
Is one style or type of field better than the other? That is a question based on the tastes of the consumer. There is no right or wrong. There is just different.