Want to make real progress?
1--Go back to the past and don't release field layouts in advance--at least at the major league level. I know, I've been harping on this for a while now but that's because it will save money without changing the game, again. It's a crucial component for sustaining and growing the upper divisions and it could be the key to restoring the mental game as an important part of the best players' skill set. But if that's too big a leap for a single jump then move to two layouts per event. Release a layout early for the lower divisions but have a separate, unreleased layout, for the upper divisions. Hardly ideal, I can hear the whining already, but it's a workable compromise that would benefit those who need it the most without disrupting the routine of the majority of teams.
2--Standardize the bunker set. Right now xball is played on a 17,500 sq. ft. field and 7-man on an 18,000 sq. ft. field. The status quo is to xball's advantage at the moment but if the larger issue is what's best for competitive paintball then a standardized bunker set is a must. It would mean teams can play the format of their choice everywhere and would facilitate the transition of players and teams between formats and tourney tracks. (More on that coming.) And its universality would lay the foundation for international standards & format. It would even benefit the manufacturer(s) who would no longer have to make unique, limited sets for different series as any bunker set could be sent anywhere in the world.
3--The local tourney scene needs to be more (and less) than a single track leading to national level play. I am convinced that the paintball-related damage done to 5-man is primarily the result of trickle down MLP. As the bar to being competitive was raised first at the pro level in xball we have since seen some of the same demands & practices work their way down the divisions into 5-man. Where links to the big league were the strongest is also where the greatest declines have come. While there is nothing wrong with the national level track, particularly if the longer term goal is a restructuring of what MLP is (something closer to my Pro Circuit concept) there needs to be some intermediate opportunities at the local and regional level where players and teams can compete in a less demanding, less intense but still competitive environment. The majority of tourney ballers should be playing local and regional events. And our first goal needs to be re-establishing grassroots tourney play and let that larger pool of players self-select for the MLP track.4--even so, less is more. The risk of two tracks is too many events. MLP track events must be strictly limited--as must all other local & regional events whether they are part of a series or not. Too many events dilutes the value and desirability of any single event. (Easy to say, harder to do particularly when numerous promoters are competing against each other. [Though right now that's probably less a problem than in the past.]) I would also consider protecting the grassroots player by keeping them out of any classification database and keeping anyone already nationally classified out of the local events. This mostly assumes the regional already supports a MLP track.
5--MLP needs to stop cannibalizing the lower divisions. In 2006 D4 was added to the 5-man competition and D5 was added in 2009. The addition of D5 corresponded to a drop in prices and the move to Race 2-2 and the numbers competing continued to drop. What looked like a measure of 5-man consistency has been weaker than participation numbers might suggest and even those have been in decline over the last 5 years. Finally in 2010 5-man numbers dropped below Race 2-X numbers for the first time. A closer look shows a downward trend that was partially masked by the changes made that added new divisions and reduced entry. I'm not saying the move to draw D4 & D5 teams caused the decline in local teams that has occurred but I think it has contributed and will continue to undermine re-building the grassroots--particularly in the absence of tourney alternatives to the MLP track.
6--PBIndustry needs to get out of the discount sponsorship business. Part of re-building the grassroots will require local stores & fields to be involved and contribute to developing and supporting new teams. When the industry offers direct discount sales to players/teams it removes any incentive for the local retailer to get involved and in turn undermines the local retailer and network of relationships that they depend upon.
These suggestions won't fix every ill that ails competitive paintball but they would be a good start. After that the local and regional event promoters will still have to struggle with what works best for them and their customers but it's a start.