After an absence of nearly eight years, paint ball will triumphantly return to the Valley Isle this weekend.
Seasoned paint ballers and curious adventure seekers above the age of 10 can head over to Maui Paintball at 11 a.m. today. It is located between the Olowalu Refuse and Recycle Transfer Station and Olowalu General Store.
"Honestly it's a shock," said Maui Paintball founder and owner Clint Hansen. "I didn't expect it to take this long, so it's amazing."
Kapalua Adventures staff and family played the first match at the Maui Paintball facility in Olowalu last week.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
The 31-year-old Hansen said bringing paint ball back to the island has been a long and arduous task, but one he was adamant about. When the Kula-based Darren and Donald Paintball (D&D) closed in 2005, players no longer had access to formal fields or games.
Hansen said he was disappointed, considering that he was introduced to the sport at the Kula paint-ball field on his 13th birthday.
"I loved it," he said. "Because D&D shut down here, there was nothing for kids to do. I took the time and effort to find a field, and that took about five years."
Hansen, a real estate agent, said it took several years to find a suitable location and receive approval on a special use permit from various governing bodies.
"You have to talk to multiple government, federal, state, county, environmental and cultural (groups)," he said. "I mean, there's dozens and dozens of studies that took an immense amount of time and effort . . . about two years."
It took another year for the permitting process, which included a fencing permit and a grading permit for the parking lot, Hansen said. He also needed letters of authorization for onsite storage buildings that also will serve as office space.
The 10-acre facility is complete with 4,500 square feet of tree forts, which required multiple letters from the county to allow construction. Hansen attended one of the county's permitting open houses and showed representatives the design of his tree forts.
"I don't have anything under the roof. I don't have any electricity in it, and I don't have any plumbing. So it's basically a walkway," he said. "I'm fortunate enough to be exempt from (standard building codes) because it's a play structure."
Aside from the tree forts, an old double-decker sugar cane bus serves as a strategic point within one of the three designated playing fields. The bus was abandoned in Kihei and transported to the facility, eventually being hauled into position with Hansen's tractor.
"It was a very fun process," he said.
Maui County planner Kathleen Aoki was assigned to the paint-ball facility and said she is excited to see the project coming to fruition.
"There was a lot of positive testimony for that project," she said of the Maui Planning Commission's approval of the facility in a hearing, two years ago. "It'll serve the community well, and I wish them all the luck in the world."
On Wednesday, around 35 Kapalua Adventures staff and family members participated in the first match at the facility. Hansen said he did not witness the game because he was busy making final preparations for formally opening the facility.
"I heard those guns go, and I was just, it was magical actually," he said. "It's silly to say, but it was."
Barbara "Buddy" Bradbury, 50, participated in the paint-ball games alongside her son, who works for the adventures company.
"I've never played paint ball before, but it is amazing," she said. "I mean I feel like I'm 10 again, I love it."
For the soft opening today, games will be played until sundown, with packages priced at $30 per person for a day of play and group packages starting at $200 for 10 people. Packages include a paint-ball gun, a protective mask, an optional chest protector, and a continuous supply of high-pressured air.
Players with their own paint-ball guns or other equipment pay only $20, but all guns are required to shoot under 280 feet per second.
Players are also required to use the facility's paint balls, due to safety and environmental concerns. The paint balls are biodegradable, made with gelatin capsules and food-grade dye.
Hansen said that Wednesday's match was a great success and projects that more than 50 people will be at the facility today.
"It's funny you're shooting at people, but at the end of the day it's like, 'I got you,' " he said. "As you can see by the smiles on their faces, they loved it."
Maui Paintball hopes to have its grand opening Feb. 2.
For more information and to make reservations, visit mauipaintball.com or its Facebook page.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.