By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN After being closed for nearly three years, the Shoot ‘Em Up paintball range in rural Howard Lake will be returning this summer.
Formerly owned and operated by Wayne and Sharon Birkholz, the paintball range will now be operated by Dan and Erik Frich, of Howard Lake and Buffalo, respectively.
“It’s been one of our dreams to own our own paintball field,” Dan said.
The Friches often played paintball as kids growing up near Stacy.
As they began the process of looking for some land to rent or buy to build their own range, they realized how expensive an undertaking it would be.
The start-up costs alone, for purchasing or renting land, along with building the range, purchasing the guns, and getting zoning permits for a paintball range were between $35,000 and $100,000, Dan said.
Steve Halverson, Dan’s father-in-law, suggested he contact Birkholz about using the range southwest of Howard Lake.
Although the field needed some updates and revisions, Birkholz had all the equipment, the land, and the permits the Friches needed to re-open the paintball range.
“We liked what we saw, and decided to go for it,” Dan said.
Before closing, the paintball range was a popular activity for bachelor parties, birthday parties, and youth groups, Erik said.
“It’s outside in the fresh air. Fun to get the guys together and have fun,” Erik said.
“It’s really a military-type atmosphere out here, and 18- to 40-year-old males would be the typical client,” Dan said, noting that anyone is welcome to give it a try, though.
As with most rural paintball fields, the 13 acres of land on which the range is located is rugged, and participants run through weeds and lay on the ground, Dan added.
The Friches are working to clear some of the brush that has accumulated over the past few years, and have been using it to make natural bunkers throughout the range, Erik said.
There are also man-made items, such as tires, that act as bunkers and places to hide.
“When people really get into the game, they get really competitive,” Dan said. “It’s a fun sport.”
The Friches also plan to create a smaller speed-paintball range, so players who are out have something to do while waiting for the game to finish, Dan said.
He noted that a speedball course is more typical of the courses in urban areas, with smaller space to run, and a lot more bunkers to hide behind.
Two groups have already enjoyed spending a day at the Shoot ‘Em Up paintball range in May, and the Friches are looking forward to hosting many groups such as bachelor parties, birthday parties, and youth groups throughout the summer, Dan said.
The range has 31 helmets and guns available, but people are welcome to bring their own and receive discounts on playing time and paintballs, Dan said.
There is also body armor and neck protectors for those who feel the need to be more protected from the sting of a speeding paintball, he added.
As safety is a number-one concern for paintball players, goggles must be worn on the course at all times, and there will be two referees in the field during games.
A tower in the range will allow the referee to see nearly the whole field, Erik said.
The cost for two hours of playing time and 300 paintballs is $35 per person, and the range provides free carbon dioxide for the guns.
Four hours of play will cost $50. “The more you buy, the larger the discount,” noted Dan.
Refreshments will also be available for purchase at the course, Dan added.
To make reservations or see if walk-ins are being accepted for the day, call (612) 205-9535.