Sunday, June 21, 2009

Airsoft gun fights coming to Collinsville?

A group of entrepreneurs wants to turn an empty Collinsville field into a major destination for airsoft gun games.

The City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on a permit for The Break, a 48-acre course near Fairmount Park Race Track.

The park is planned on an empty parcel at 4604 Fairmont Ave. just west of the Collinsville Waste Water Plant and southeast of Interstate 255. Players on the course will use compressed air-powered guns for paintball and airsoft, which uses pellets.

The developer is Crossroads Development Group, the same company marketing a $573 million soccer stadium near interstates 255 and 55/70 in Collinsville.

The Planning Commission approved the plans earlier this month.

"It's a very unique project," said Assistant Community Development Director Mitch Bair. "They are planning to draw in airsoft gun national tournaments, which could be great business for local hotels and restaurants. It has the potential for great secondary impact."

The developers are seeking a temporary placeholder permit. The project will include a double row of nets, a gravel parking lot, portable toilets, a hand-washing station and a temporary storage building where they could sell equipment and concessions, according to plans.

Co-owner Jed Wilson said the fields will also include a 30-acre city scene where gamers can run around replica buildings, helicopters, airplanes, buses and trucks.

"Anything we can to resemble a real war-like setting," he said, adding that he's already received interest from law enforcement groups wanting to use the site to help with training.

The permit allows city officials to review the facility's operations and force changes if any problems pop up - such as needing more toilets, increasing setbacks or adding parking.

Although the semi-rural property is already zoned by the city for commercial use, the Planning Commission had issues with the best use of the land, Bair said. There were also concerns about gunshots scaring horses at nearby Fairmount Park, something the developers plan to address during construction.

"It's a difficult site," Bair said. "What do you put next to a sewer treatment plant?"

The project also received a letter of support from Fairmount Park President Brian Zander saying that he was working with owners on co-promotion ideas and parking arrangements.

Wilson said the group wants to make the facility more permanent in the future, with large airsoft fields and a target shooting range.

If approved Monday, Bair said, the owners are hoping to get the facility running in about 30 days to take advantage of the current recreational season. Once off the ground, it would remain open all year long.

Representatives from Crossroads Development did not return calls about the project.

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