Sunday, June 24, 2012

Former drive-in to be used as a simulated battlefield


SUTTON — If commuters driving south on Route 146 by the former Sutton Drive-In theater see people walking through the fields with (airsoft) weapons, there is no need to worry.

Beginning today, Citadel Airsoft, which has headquarters at 34 Suffolk St. in Worcester, will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday at what is dubbed “Citadel Flashpoint,” on the site of the former Sutton Drive-In, 100 Worcester-Providence Turnpike. The drive-in theater, which once showed adult movies then later offered family fare in the mid 1990s, has been unused for years. The approximately 9-acre parcel is owned by the Sutton Motor-In Trust of Worcester. Town Planner Jennifer S. Hager said the facility has the permits it needs to open.

Airsoft, according to Citadel Airsoft owner Matthew E. Pearson and general manager Brian G. Torsey, is a kinder-friendlier version of paintball. Airsoft features 6-millimeter biodegradable plastic airsoft BBs shot out of replica airsoft guns, such as AK-47s and AK-74s. They use electric–powered batteries or compressed gas.

Mr. Pearson said when a person is hit by one of the airsoft BBs they don’t get a bruise, which happens sometimes when someone is hit by a paintball.

“It looks like a little mosquito bite,” said Mr. Pearson, 40, a former Internet network architect.

“There’s enough force to know you’ve been hit,” he said.

Mr. Torsey, 50, said people who have been hit by the airsoft BBs sometimes look like they have chickenpox.

Citadel Airsoft opened in an old factory building at 34 Suffolk St. in 2009.

The first floor of the airsoft headquarters will stay open and be available for people scheduled to shoot in Sutton who are rained out. The headquarters contains a pro shop, where replica airsoft guns and other equipment are sold. The first floor also features a television monitor, where people who are not participating in Airsoft wars on the second floor can watch the action.

The second floor of the 40,000-square-foot building is a maze of small houses and cars that can be used during Airsoft events.

Mr. Pearson and Mr. Torsey said safety is a top priority. Protective clothing, including head and eye protection, is required at both sites.

“The worst injury we’ve had is a lost tooth,” Mr. Pearson said, while adding that to his knowledge there has never been a fatal injury involving Airsoft.

Mr. Pearson lives in Uxbridge and has had his eye on the former drive-in site for years.

“I’ve always thought that would be a good spot for what we do,” he said.

Citadel Flashpoint has scheduled what Mr. Pearson called a soft opening today. The event is a simulated military training session that is discussed on the company’s website, The area is scheduled to open officially the weekend of June 30.

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