Area 51 Paintball expands indoors

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When Peter Ducharme envisioned starting a place for structured paintball competitions in Craig, he knew that an outside course was just a start.

Today, pending an electrical inspection, the second phase of Ducharme's plan for Area 51 Paintball opens, an indoor facility called the Area 51 Paintball Palace.

"I could have built myself a nice little house with the money we put into this place," he said while inside the remodeled brick warehouse at 306 Breeze Street. "We knew all along that we wanted an indoor place to play and after almost six months, it is pretty much finished."

Inside the redesigned warehouse there is a large room for paintball wars and a side room that Ducharme plans to add video games and an indoor archery range. To bring the building up to contemporary codes, he also added bathrooms, access ramps for the disabled and heaters.

"The water hadn't been turned on since 1986," he said. "It needed a lot of work. If we would have known how much work it required, we would have started earlier."

The "we" he refers to is the dozen or so volunteers who have helped with the building since August. He predicted his crew had put in at least 1,000 hours to get an indoor place to play.

"It's a pain to play outside in the winter," said Chris Plate, who once stayed up all night to put up walls in the front office. "It will be nice to play and not have our hands or guns freeze up."

Ducharme hopes the new venue will draw people of all ages out of the cold for some entertainment.

"This is that time in the winter that people are running out of things to do," he said. "I hope we can provide some wholesome, enjoyable recreation year 'round for everybody."

Area 51 hosted two tournaments in the summer at their outdoor venue and the turnout was enough to give hope to paintball fans.

"This could be one of the biggest hobbies in the area if people catch on," said volunteer John Garcia. "I used to like golf until I started playing paintball. Now I'm hooked."

Apparently the anticipation of the paintball palace opening has been growing.

"I've had a lot of people at the high school tell me they wanted to come play," said volunteer Erik Plate. "I think with the indoor place as well as outdoors, paintball could keep getting bigger in Craig."

The placement of the palace is next to a vacant lot, one that Ducharme said he hopes to convert into another outdoor course.

"Before the end of the summer, we hope to have two outdoor facilities and this indoor one," he said.

One thing that Garcia foresaw was improved teams from Craig.

"With more opportunities, there should be local teams that start doing well in bigger competitions," he said.

"Just from working on this building with others, we've formed a lot of camaraderie and are ready to get going again."

For more information, call the Area 51 Paintball Palace at 824-2474.

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