Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fighting for fun is air-gun battle station’s business

Fans of urban warfare finally have a place where they can target each other in Wichita.

All in good fun, of course.Wichita Indoor Airsoft opened this month in the Kellogg Crossing Center. Housed in a former call center, it’s a maze of about 20 rooms built of two-by-fours and plywood and containing airsoft obstacles such as oil drums and the remnants of a Halloween haunted house.Up front there’s a snack bar and counter where airsoft equipment can be rented.

The setup is conducive to simulated “CQB," or close quarters battle, as opposed to air-gun battles that take place outdoors.

“This is a lot faster paced" than outdoor battle games, said Sean Black, who manages the airsoft facility. “You’re a lot closer. You’re going to room to room and there are obstacles to go around, which is real popular.

"In the [airsoft] games, teams of up to 15 people start at either end of the 15,000-square-foot space and make their way toward each other, attempting to shoot each other with plastic 6-millimeter [airsoft] balls fired from [airsoft] guns modeled after assault weapons.

One hit and a player is eliminated from the game. A referee monitors all games to resolve disputes and make sure there’s no cheating, Black said. Among other things, players are prohibited from firing blindly around corners and shooting each other from within five feet. Violations of rules can result in [airsoft] players being banned for the day or permanently.

Goggles, long pants and long-sleeved shirts are required, although Black said the airsoft pellets don’t travel at a velocity high enough to penetrate skin. Still, being hit can sting, which is why Black also recommends that [airsoft] players wear gloves.

“It’s not real painful, but it’s enough to let you know you’ve been hit," Black said. “I’ve taken a shot in the knuckles, and that’s the last place you want to get hit."

An all-day pass costs $20 and airsoft gun rental is another $15, although players can bring their own. The airsoft facility is open to the public Friday through Sunday and available for private rental during the week.

Black said airsoft gun battle games appeal to a wide range of people, but especially those who enjoy video games simulating warfare.

“I think the biggest thing is the realism," he said. “What’s popular is the first-person shooter video games. You’re essentially doing that for real, but it’s still just a game."Black said his boss, Rick Kite, first applied for a permit to open about three years ago but was turned down by the city of Wichita, apparently because of an ordinance restricting the discharge of air-powered guns in the city. Then this fall, Kite finally got the go-ahead, Black said.

Kite also owns BB Airsoft World, a shop at 106 S. West St. that sells air-powered guns and airsoft accessories.“At the end of the day, it’s indoor entertainment," Black said of the air-gun battleground. “It’s no different than playing laser tag or indoor miniature golf."

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