MORRIS – A paintball facility is one step away from coming to Morris.
The Morris Planning Commission positively recommended, with a 4-0 vote Wednesday night, a conditional permitted use permit for an indoor recreational facility within a B-3 commercial district. Commission members Jim Jennings, Barry Narvick and Jim Garling were absent. Morris City Council will discuss it Monday.
Raymond Smith, owner and operator of Midwest Paintball Inc., said he’s seen hundreds of hits on Facebook and the company’s website to indicate interest is high.
The commission was in agreement after Smith and Mike Fleming of Marquette Properties spoke about the potential business in the public hearing portion of the meeting.
“I see a lot of upside in this,” City Planner Mike Hoffman said.
The paintball business would be located in a former manufacturing facility at 3727 N. Division St. Smith said he’s hoping to open the weekend of Nov. 7 or 14.
When Smith approached Fleming about leasing the property for a paintball business, he said it took him by surprise. But he soon found it would satisfy a demand in the Chicago area, Illinois and entire Midwest. Smith wants to bring teams in from other states, and Morris makes perfect sense to satisfy the demand for a now international sport, he said.
Smith and Fleming also anticipate more tax dollars and potentially more hotel and restaurant purchases made.
“Perhaps a group will play one day, stay a night and play again the next day,” Fleming said.
There are teams in Minooka and Morris, while Chicago has six teams, Smith said. He recently attended national paintball championships in Florida, where there were hundreds of teams present. Smith said he spoke with a team from Texas that will be in the area in December and would like to visit the facility. Smith noted that a lot of universities, such as Illinois State, have college teams.
Hoffman asked about safety procedures. Smith said strict safety rules will be listed – for example, goggles must be worn on the field at all times. All referees know to remove people who violate safety rules. Fleming said there’s a standard set of industry safety rules that all reputable locations follow.
As a manufacturing facility, it once had 75 to 80 employees, much fewer than the employees needed for the paintball operation.
Smith said paintball teams are five people apiece. Two teams play at a time; and even when two teams are waiting to play, there probably won’t be more than 20 people in the building not including employees.
There will be a retail shop where players can buy equipment, as well as a seating area for spectators.