Ex­treme Rage for Paint­ball

The col­or­ful sport has a fol­low­ing in South­west Florida

Gulf & Main - - News - BY DAYNA HARP­STER

If you’re tempted to think that video games pro­vide a level play­ing field for ev­ery­one, you prob­a­bly haven’t tried to match skills with any­one un­der 18. But there is a level field—lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively—off Veron­ica Shoe­maker Boule­vard in Fort My­ers. Ex­treme Rage Paint­ball at­tracts all sorts of peo­ple, in­clud­ing a mom and her daugh­ters, the Florida Gulf Coast Univer­sity paint­ball team, 10-year-olds hav­ing birth­day par­ties, fa­thers and sons, and young hip­sters with lum­ber­jack beards.

Man­ager Travis Cawthard is 36 and has been a fan of the sport for 10 years. Now his 14-year-old son, Ian, likes noth­ing bet­ter than to hang out with his dad at work and play when he can, too.

Cawthard’s in­tro­duc­tion to the marker (the term those in the know use for “gun”), the mask, the tank and the hop­per came in the woods of Cape Coral, he says, play­ing with some friends about 10 years ago. Since then, he has be­come a cer­ti­fied ref­eree who has his own team, the Florida Trop­ics, based at Ex­treme Rage. Cawthard and other ref­er­ees are al­ways on the fields when Ex­treme Rage is open, en­sur­ing that play­ers fol­low the rules and ob­serve all safety pre­cau­tions. Any player who vi­o­lates the rules gets a check­mark on his or her wrist­band. Two checks and that player is out of the game. “Open play” is held ev­ery Satur­day and Sun­day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with pri­vate par­ties held through­out the week. On a re­cent Satur­day, Daniel Zur­brigg of Naples and his 9-year-old son, Ry­lan, had come out to play for the first time. “The lit­tle man” won, Zur­brigg said. They

Com­mon games played at Ex­treme Rage in­clude Elim­i­na­tion, Cap­ture the Flag, Bomb in the Woods and Pro­tect the Pres­i­dent.

had such a good time that be­fore they left, they booked a birth­day party two months ahead for Ry­lan, who would be 10.

“We get a lot of fa­thers and sons,” says owner Robert Sims. “A dad can take his son to Lit­tle League, but he watches. This is a way for them to do some­thing side by side.” At 28, Sims has owned the park for nearly six years. The park has been open at the site since 2004, but has changed own­ers and names sev­eral times. Sims took over Oa­sis Paint­ball Park in 2011 and changed the name back to its orig­i­nal, Ex­treme Rage. “Peo­ple have been telling me I’m too young to own this busi­ness for the whole six years,” he says with a smile.

Sims started play­ing when he was 11, af­ter beg­ging his mother to take him to the lo­cal paint­ball park. They struck a

In­flat­able bunkers pro­vide hid­ing spots at Ex­treme Rage Paint­ball Park.

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