tampabay.com

Colorful tournament ends today with a splat

Amateur and pro paintballers gather in Tampa.

By KATHRYN HELMKE
Published May 13, 2007


Paint, not footballs, will be flying today at Raymond James Stadium.

The National Professional Paintball League Super 7 World Series will conclude its three-day tournament with some final colorful action.

This is not the paintball of back yards. This a seven-player game with the objective being to take out the other team's players and advance the team flag to the other end of the field. To be eliminated requires only one hit anywhere on the player's body or equipment.

Five divisions - rookie, novice, amateur, semiprofessional and professional - are playing this weekend. Today, the top 16 from each division move to the semifinals, which will be followed by the finals.

The top four teams in each division take home some cash, with the No. 1 pro team earning $25,000.

Even with cash on the line, professional player Riley Sullivan, 23, said his paintball skills are not enough for him and his family to live on. It's one of the lowest paid professional sports, the California resident said, but that is starting to change as more sponsors sign on.

To supplement their income, most players work in the paintball field. Mike Papa, 29, owns a paintball shop in New Jersey.

Papa's love for guns got him into the sport. When he was too young to get a firearms permit, he turned to paintball guns.

The Marine Corps must have gotten the message. An event sponsor, the Marines have a recruiting booth at the event.

The field is not entirely male-dominated.

"It's hard to keep up with the guys," said Kat Secor, 19, who plays on coed Team Destiny. The Las Vegas resident said the best part is figuring out an opponent's strategy so she can pick him off.

Teams fly all over the country for events. This weekend's roster is full, with 175 teams competing, said Shawn Walker, the league president.

Fast Facts:

If you go

The paintball tournament continues from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today in the parking areas next to Raymond James Stadium. Admission is free. To check it out live online go to www.nppllive.com.