Today's question was pulled from the mailbag post of Dec 12. I foolishly agreed to respond (in that post's comments) and so now I'm stuck. Unlike the norm, today's answer is not the answer. I'm not sure there is such an answer but it is a valuable topic for conversation and one that competitive paintball will have to answer eventually.
So, do you see any way for the industry to help make tourney play more attractive to field owners, who can then sponsor and give refuge to more teams (who then buy more high end guns and cases of paint)?
Actually, I do. And I'ma throw in an extra answer besides--consider it an early Christmas present from VFTD. First thing the industry needs to do is stop sponsoring paintball teams. And by "sponsoring" I mean offering direct to teams discounted merchandise. (Did I have you going there for a sec?) Selling direct breaks down the relationships between teams/players and the local field. If the local field/pro shop is the conduit between local/regional/national am teams and discounted product it is a small price to pay to encourage fields interested in supporting competition paintball to do so and builds bonds at the local level between teams/players and their local fields/pro shops. As it stands the manufacturers who go the direct "sponsorship" route are cannibalizing their own grassroots markets.
While a good start that's not enough. In this time of economic contraction and internet sales (and even some big box store sales) the local field/pro shop--particularly if it has nearby competitors--has to offer something more, or at least different. Given that I think the bar has been raised too high for simple entry into the competitive paintball world I have some suggestions; offer and schedule times for basic paintball training; combine that with restricted but informal afternoon (or morning) (or both) streetball style "competitions" periodically and encourage or directly promote the development of paintball clubs based around the local field. The idea is to begin by teaching anyone interested the fundamentals of the game and then give them a place and a way to begin to experience their growing skills in an environment of their equals. You want more and future tourney players? Especially now they don't appear ex nihilo. The club can be an element the local field organizes or it can be an arrangement between those interested in building a paintball club and their local competition-oriented field. The club exists to develop tourney players and provide a ladder of teams on which to compete.And if the local field is the source of discounted gear, etc. you now have a reciprocal basis for the relationship. And in the longer term the most successful clubs will attract more and better players and more attention from would be industry supporters and everybody would potentially benefit.