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Paintball offers safe battleground at Krossfire
ELMENDORF -- “Gear up, rec ball! Gear up!” came the call from the referees, and we were off.
Run, hide, shoot, repeat. Get shot. Sit out. Head for a new field, with different obstacles and terrain, and play again. It was fast, furious, and fun, and we plan to do it all over again as soon as we can.
“It” is paintball. Having taken a mixed group of young teens and adults to Krossfire Paintball for a Saturday of splattering opponents with water-soluble gel paint capsules, we were hooked after the first round.
Gerald and Teresa Urbanczyk have created a paintball haven on the family farm near Elmendorf. But it wasn’t always that way.
A little hobby
It all began in the early 1990s with the boyfriend of one of their daughters. The young man enjoyed paintball with his buddies, who would visit the Urbanczyks’ farm and have their “battles” in the field.
The family got hooked on this new hobby, and converted a pasture for paintball, adding obstacles and bunkers to enhance the experience. Teresa, the mother of four, became concerned about the safety of the increasing number of players, and sought insurance for the folks turning up to play. This led to the family incorporating in the mid-1990s, opening Krossfire Paintball as a business, weekends only.
“Some folks were scared at first,” Teresa recalled. “It’s an extreme sport and all.”
The Urbanczyks decided to focus on safety for the players and ran ads educating people about the sport. Gradually, the business grew.
“It started holding its own about 2000,” Teresa said.
To improve their site, the family visited other paintball fields and websites, adding features to their own property as finances, time, and manpower allowed. In addition to enhancing the experience for players, however, the family’s priority continued to be providing a safe environment and experience.
“My biggest issue as a mom is safety and good sportsmanship; making sure the kids have a good time,” Teresa said.
This family business caters to everyone, from first-time visitors or youth sports teams out for a birthday party or team outing to avid paintball fans geared up with the latest electronically enhanced equipment. Teresa and her husband, Gerald, work with their son, Andrew. Through the years, they’ve also been joined by their daughters. Although the family members often played in the early years, they don’t get out in the field as much these days.
They’re too busy providing fun for others!
They continue to focus on safety while providing a fun atmosphere. Every participant must wear a safety mask -- either their own, or one provided by Krossfire Paintball. Every group is treated to Krossfire’s safety spiel, and everyone agrees to play by the rules -- or you don’t play. Infringement of the rules, such as removing your mask while in play, gets you removed from the field. And you don’t get to return. Safety is paramount at Krossfire.
Every group is accompanied to the field by referees, trained to strict specifications by Teresa -- whom everyone calls “Mom” -- and her crew; each ref is distinctively garbed to spot easily on the field of play. They outline the rules, lead the groups to the various fields, and monitor play to maintain safety and keep the fun flowing. Often, the referees visited Krossfire first as players, and they “ref” as they grow in the sport. Most of them stay in touch with “Mom,” even after leaving Krossfire as they move on in life.
“Ivan Sears started reffing in high school,” Teresa recalled. “He went on to become a U.S. Marine and went to Afghanistan.”
There, the young man lost both legs in an explosion. But while recovering in a military hospital in Germany, Sears called Teresa.
“He asked if he still had a job here!” she said, tears choking her voice.
When he returned home, Sears visited the Urbanczyks at Krossfire to play paintball.
“He thought he couldn’t play any more,” Teresa said. “But he got out of his wheelchair and scooted from bunker to bunker! He’s tried playing with prosthetics since, which he tends to ditch when he plays.”
A number of her refs have gone into the military, she said.
“They say the experience on the paintball field -- staying out of the line of fire, communicating with other players, and so on -- has given them good experience for the military,” Teresa said.
The family’s experience with Sears and other refs has led them to offer their site as a training ground for medical trainees serving the military and training with the San Antonio Military Medical Center. The medical recovery groups play out scenarios at Krossfire, training medics how to retrieve wounded personnel from the field while under fire.
They also host groups of wounded warriors out for a day of recreation.
“It’ll break your heart,” Teresa said. “They’re beautiful young men. I’ve met some wonderful people.”
The best thing about the sport and the family business, she said, is meeting people.
“It keeps me up-to-date with what the kids are doing,” she said. “I really cherish the friendships.”
Often, people go to Krossfire, thinking they’ll let the kids play and have a good time in the fun, but safe, environment, but get hooked on the sport themselves.
“One mom came with her computer, intending to sit out,” Teresa said. “The kids kept on at her, and talked her into playing. She liked it so much, she bought her own equipment before the day was out! The kids were ready to leave before she was!”
Teresa knows what a thrill paintball can be. She’s a bookkeeper during the week.
“This is totally a lot more fun!” she exclaimed. “It’s nice to be outside.
Our little group was in full agreement. The kids figured it’s a great way to indulge in sibling rivalry -- without inflicting lasting damage. We had fun, got some great exercise, and met some wonderful folks. Will we do it again?
Can’t wait to hear the call, “Gear up, rec ball! Gear up!”
Meet the players
We met a number of great people at Krossfire Paintball the day we played, from the staff to other enthusiasts. Among them were Victor Sauceda of La Vernia and Jose Arias of Floresville, both avid paintballers, and referee Kelly Malone, an executive with Taco Cabana in San Antonio.
Malone, in his mid-50s, enjoys playing and getting fun exercise. It’s a far cry from his weekday job, he said.
Sauceda has played since 2005, and Arias for about eight years.
“I love the staff, the fields,” Sauceda said. “I’ve played other places, but nothing compares [to Krossfire].”
“I love playing here,” Arias agreed. “It’s very family-oriented. I’m not really into the tournaments, just out here to have fun!”
Due to the family atmosphere, the two often find themselves facing young opponents.
“I hate shooting the kids,” Sauceda said. “It’s the worst feeling. I gotta apologize after.”
“And playing against girls, you gotta be nice,” Arias said. “I try to shoot them in the gun or the leg.”
They enjoy the friendly atmosphere and the attention the Urbanczyks pay to detail, setting up the fields, and creating a safe environment. They play as a way to release everyday stresses.
Sauceda, an oil-field mechanic, loves the adrenaline rush. Arias, who works for a fiberglass company in Karnes City, said paintball helps him relax.
“You shoot people, but you don’t get in trouble!” he said with a smile.
located at 10780 Elmendorf-La Vernia Road, is open for private parties weekdays from 6 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m.
The minimum age to play is 10 years old. All players must wear safety masks and agree to the safety rules. Loose, baggy clothing is recommended. Avid players often wear padding or body armor; paintballs sting and can bruise when they hit unprotected areas!
Players can use Krossfire equipment -- paintball markers (guns), CO2 cartridges, and masks -- or bring their own. Paintballs are available, also.
The on-site store offers a wide range of equipment for purchase.
For more information, visit www.sa paintball.com, call 210-635-7050, or find them on Facebook or MySpace.
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