“My first experience with paintball was in 2009, when my boys and I were invited to a birthday party at a nearby course,” recalled Neil Burley, the owner of Valley Paintball. “They were five and seven years old at the time, and even though they weren’t exactly the most effective players on our team, they just loved it.”Neil and his sons were hooked, and they would keep going back as a crew for years afterward. When the owner of the course was ready to retire, he asked Neil if he’d like to buy the place. Neil weighed his options. On the one hand, a paintball course didn’t exactly fit in neatly with his already established manufacturing and real estate businesses — neither of those have much to do with running for cover and pelting people with brightly colored balls of paint. On the other, his kids adored the place, and Neil figured that would make for the perfect chance to teach them to work. He decided to give them that opportunity. The Burleys now run Valley Paintball.
The Burleys soon moved the operation to a new location that could better support their vision for the ideal paintball course. It was more compact, less wooded, and, perhaps most importantly, far less inundated by mosquitoes. This spot was ideal for a “hyperball” course, which utilizes free-standing structures made from corrugated black pipes as cover.
“A hyperball course has a small area with dense cover,” explained Neil. “That means we can host a series of quick, intimate matches, rather than just a few rounds needlessly stretched out by a handful of stragglers playing cat and mouse. We’ve held games with as many as 136 players divided up into two teams — but even with that many, our two acre course ensures everyone gets to play a lot.”
“Family is our backbone,” Neil continued. “Seeing my kids grow in this environment has been very rewarding. My older son Lucas is our CFO, and handles the meat of the operation. Nathan is our field operations manager, and although he’s an eighth grader he’s learned to address our players before games like he’s General Patton. My girl Emily is just getting involved now, too. If that’s not a family business, then I’d like to see one.”
“I love seeing how paintball brings people together. Last year we had a group of three generations come in. Watching those old farmers popping in and out of cover while pelting their grandkids with paintballs…well, that’s a way of interacting as a family which they probably don’t get to do every day.”
“The greatest moment is those two magic minutes just after a game has just ended. Everyone is still electric from the battle, comparing the places where they got hit, reenacting the ways they’d taken each other out. There are very few experiences we can share like paintball — hunting while being hunted, but in the friendliest way you could imagine.”
“Kids who love video games probably constitute our biggest group of players,” Neil continued. “Paintball taps perfectly into what might be one of their few existing interests. Unlike video games, however, paintball is social, teaches cooperation, and is an extremely physical activity. I’ve seen a lot of kids go from being couch potatoes into passionate hobbyists because what they’ve experienced here. If you’ve got a kid who you’re dying to get outdoors, this is one of the best places to start.”
Valley Paintball is located at 3576 151st Ave SE in Wheatland. They offer open play on Saturdays from noon until 6:00pm, and are available on other days for private parties as well. Visit valleypaintball.com to learn more about how you can go enjoy the beautiful outdoors, make new friends, and then shoot them.
By David Scheller