By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
The genesis of a big idea can often be something relatively simple.
For Stephen Powell, who just steered his multi-activity Patriot Outdoors facility through its first weekend of business, the germ of this venture was one basic thought.
“I had the concept of people needing a safe place to shoot around here,” said Powell, who bristles when the notion of shooting tin cans on fence posts comes up.
So, northwest of Clovis, Powell started buying up land. Now, in the center of 1,600 acres, Patriot Outdoors — though still in its beginning stages of development, according to the owner — is the site of gun firing ranges, three paintball fields and a 6,000-square-foot building.
Powell said that a 24-foot-high rock-climbing wall and a 30-person classroom will soon be installed in the building — which only recently had its roof completed.
“The summer of 2000 is when I started coming up with a small business plan for some ranges and a small shop, and it’s just evolved from there,” Powell said.
In the future, he foresees the possibility of RV hookups, campgrounds and trap-and-skeet ranges — among others.
“We have enough land to accommodate a lot more facilities,” Powell said.
“Depending on how fast we grow initially will determine how fast we put in the other activities, such as a rappelling tower, ropes courses as well as more paintball fields and firearms ranges.”
Located approximately five miles northwest of Clovis, Patriot Outdoors has a staff of six employees, although Powell said that expert instructors will often be brought in to teach courses.
Kirk Roberts, a former officer with the Clovis Police Department, is the facility director for the new business. Roberts believes that a possible component of the customer base for Patriot Outdoors will be law enforcement agencies seeking training for their officers.
The tactical training range offers rifle and pistol shooters the chance to hit pop-up and moving targets.
At the paintball fields, competitions between teams also gives the opportunity for adrenaline-pumping activity — and quick-thinking situations that can’t be replicated at many venues.
“We can use this area for tactical training that’s very realistic. Part of making it realistic is getting that fear in there,” Roberts said. “That type of training is very hard to get. There’s no place in New Mexico providing that training on a consistent basis.”
Paintball enthusiasts can try playing on an X-ball (paintball) field or a speedball field for five-on-five competitions, while the large 7-acre recreation ball field can accommodate teams with as many as 12 players each. The X-ball field includes inflatable obstacles that players dodge in and out of, while the speedball field has tires, barrels and spools contestants can use to shield themselves from flying balls of paint.
Powell, who said one of the biggest challenges to starting his whole venture has been finding realistic insurance rates to protect his business, added that each of the paintball guns is calibrated so that the speed will not exceed more than 280 feet per second.
“Safety is all we think about around here,” Powell said.
Safety … and sound.
“We need 1,000 (acres) to accommodate for sound and safety. What I mean by that is you don’t want to bother your neighbors with all the sound from the shooting ranges,” Powell said. “You want to make sure you have enough land around you so that it disperses the sound over your land instead of it getting to your neighbor’s land.”