Before I get started on the USPL/NPPL 2.0 venues we need to have a talk. About what makes a major league event. The obvious priorities–and I say obvious even though some past events didn’t seem to find them all that obvious–are the officiating and the playing surface. You may not find those the obvious priorities. See where this is going? Yeah, there are probably about as many priorities are there are participants. (Okay, it’s not quite that bad but still.) Then there’s the issue of player priorities, sponsor priorities, league priorities, blah blah blah. And if you’ve been around for awhile you know that those competing priorities aren’t always compatible–at least not when there are a finite amount of resources available to make them all happen.
Go back and take another look at the Intro to Venues. I am of the mind that major league paintball needs to be more than jumped up local tournaments in order to be major league. To be the showcase for the sport side of the game. What exactly that means I’m not sure. I am sure it isn’t something achievable right now but my grades don’t reflect the limitations of the currently possible. While HB is probably the best location for an event–and even HB couldn’t draw an MLP turnout last year–the best place I’ve ever been to play was the indoor arena at the Mohegan Sun resort and casino in Connecticut. Locker rooms, indoors, decent carpet, giant scoreboard, 10K seat capacity. The downsides then were virtually no spectators and the place was wrapped in more plastic than your grandmother’s living room sofa but it was a brilliant place to play. The embodiment of big money big time paintball fulfilled. Sorta. And it isn’t going to happen again any time soon.
NPPL (They’re back and it’s official. USPL? Never heard of it)
Huntington Beach–undeniably the coolest venue location but proximity to the pier matters. I’m sorry but the cool factor and the vibe are directly affected by how close to the pier the event staging actually is. Great weather for most, quintessential California. Like visiting an old friend. Lousy surface to play on even with the carpets and slogging through the sand going to and from is not fun. Nor is getting sand in all your gear. Try to avoid it and see what happens. Nice try but you’re outta luck. If you can manage to fly into John Wayne it isn’t too bad but fly into LAX and accessibility is Cali-style, which sucks. But all the rest of less than perfect elements disappear on a Sunday when the boardwalk is packed and the sound of the surf and the ocean breeze are the backdrop for the finals. Grade B (Have I lost my mind? No, the officiating was barely tolerable and the rules are a joke and you already know I don’t like the sand.)
WCO (SC Village)
Hello 1996. If you’re a fan of dust, dirt and more dirt this is where you wanna be. The place is a dump. An isolated dump and a miserable excuse for a tournament venue–period. It stunk in the old days and it stinks today. Sure, it’s got cred as an historical paintball venue but that’s just a polite way of saying it’s a dump. I doubt the place has ever had a living blade of grass grow on it and the less said the better. Grade F
DC Challenge (Pev’s in Aldie VA)
The site is a very nice, up-to-date recreational field aimed at the airball/speedball (tourney-oriented) player. Nicely laid out with excellent playing surfaces and some amenities it would be (and is) a great place to play on a weekend. It’s not particularly close to the other event basics like restaurants and hotels or alternate entertainment but the event resort hotel was very nice. The question with a location like this is does the rest of the event measure up to a MLP standard and the answer in the case of the USPL/NPPL is, maybe, if you don’t look too closely. None of the events had much in the way of a vendors presence and this was probably the least well attended. Of course team attendance wasn’t exactly pushing the boundaries either. Another question that comes to mind is there a critical mass factor for an MLP? How much does the size of the event, the number of participants both playing and vending, the location, the duration, etc. have to do with that mysterious alchemical concoction that is a successful major league event. One that everyone involved can’t help but talk about after the fact. This was a decent event but like WCO and Vegas it was two fields and a relative handful of teams. Grade C-
Say hello to my parking lot. Across the street from the convention center and the Hilton. A block behind the Riviera and surrounded by fences with direct parking lot access available for ten bucks. The near Strip location was okay but the only spectators (other than a handful of dedicated local fans) are driving past because they made a wrong turn somewhere and are trying to find their way back to the Strip. Two fields, a few vendors, a concession stand or three, some bleachers and an upper deck VIP and the constant sound of generators and there you have it. The weather was great and Vegas can be a cool place to hang out. Our wing of the Riviera was the pre-Industrial portion but I heard there were nice rooms in the newer parts of the hotel. In any event it was cheap and one casino floor is much like the next and for those determined to lose some money it hardly matters. As a venue Vegas has lots of potential and (apparently) lots of appeal. Grade C+