Meet the battle masters. The weekend warlords. The field generals who make sure war is helluva lot of fun.
One is Danny Cort, general manager for Doodlebug Sportz and its indoor paintball arena in Everett and outdoor paintball park in Snohomish.
The other is Ezra Frenzel, the owner of ForestFire Paintball, a course set in natural terrain near Arlington.
These are the purveyors of paint, the ones who put on a good war every weekend for hundreds of paintballers throughout Snohomish County.
They’re less competitors than collaborators, curating the local paintball scene. They talk once a week about paintball, if not about their individual businesses practices.
Each business offers something a little different.
“We’re about as opposite as you can get from them as far as terrain goes,” Frenzel said of Doodlebug. “I don’t mean that in a bad way. Their operation is really good.”
Cort’s family has owned Doodlebug Sportz for 16 years. Cort, 32, got into paintballing at a year-end party after eighth-grade wrestling. He played the sport again a short time later at a birthday party and he was hooked.
Cort and his father, Don, would head to Sultan on weekends and meet dozens of other paintballers.
“My dad kind of noticed that people would drive all the way out there and then they would run out of paintballs or run out of CO2, basically supplies,” Cort said. “So he bought an old travel trailer and gutted it and put bulk CO2 bottles and brought paintballs and started selling them up there.”
And thus, a side business started. Don Cort eventually quit a job working as a service manager at a car dealership and started an indoor paintball arena in Everett. (Doodlebug is the nickname Don Cort’s grandfather gave him. It was the name given by Allies to the V-1 flying bomb made by the Germans during World War II.)
Doodlebug’s current indoor digs are at 3303 McDougall Ave. in Everett. The warehouse has two courses — one where paintballers storm a castle, and another with a tournament-style field with paintball bunkers, essentially large objects to hide around.
About 10 years ago, Doodlebug took over an outdoor park with eight courses. Over the years, the Cort family added props to each of the fields. One is Black Hawk Down field, named for the famous firefight with U.S. forces in Somalia. The props in this case are three downed helicopters.
“It’s not like something we have to make perfect,” Cort said. “The helicopter, for example, is made out two by fours and plywood.”
Other courses at the outdoor park include another castle, the Alamo, a tank field, a prison field and Doodeville, a cityscape for street fighting. There are also two fields for tournaments for advanced paintballers.
Cort is careful to keep the obstacles at least 15 feet away to cut down on the sting from standard impact paintballs. Low-impact paintballs are often used at the indoor arena. The Cort family also has a retail shop at 4610 Evergreen Way.
Most paintballers head to open sessions or private parties at any of the courses. Doodlebug also hosts what are called “Big Games,” where they put out smoke bombs and turn up the music and draw crowds from around the Northwest, Cort said.
Frenzel, 36, got into paintball after high school, when a cousin took him for a game. But the equipment and the paintballs were expensive.
Soon, Frenzel started hosting matches on his parents’ property in Lake Stevens. That morphed into a business to help pay for the costs. Several years ago, Frenzel started leasing 30 acres at 17022 Burn Road outside of Arlington. It already had received a conditional-use permit as a paintball grounds.
At ForestFire Paintball, the terrain is actually the obstacles, Frenzel said. The land is broken into several courses with natural vegetation, including cedar and Alder trees and bushes. There’s a swampy area and an area with trenches.
“It’s for people who like to sneak around and people who like to blend in,” Frenzel said.
It’s also a place to get away from modern life.
“We don’t even have good cell service out there,” Frenzel said. “You’re out in the woods and you’re crawling around in the dirt and mud — it doesn’t sound that great, but when you’re out there it’s a lot of fun.”
Like Doodlebug, ForestFire has open sessions on Saturdays and does private bookings for birthday parties or corporate retreats. ForestFire also has scenarios many weekends out of the year. Those include Axis versus Allies, re-enacting D-Day or the Battle of the Bulge, for instance.
Other scenarios include the DEA versus the Cartel. Another is called Z-Day, imagining factions fighting in a world ravaged by zombies. There are no zombie actors, but one of the games includes people who become infected and chase other paintballers.
Both business operators agree on one important point: It’s not the props or the terrain that make the perfect paintball outing.
“Especially in paintball, it’s a cultural thing,” Cort said. “What’s the community like? Who are the people who are running it? The people who are running it set the tone for everything else.”
Cort has played at courses all over the United States and Canada. He’s seen bad scenes with players shouting profanities or shooting tagged players trying to leave the field.
He strives to maintain a family-friendly experience, and many of the regular players help enforce the social norms.
Frenzel agrees that it’s about the community, saying players look out for each other. He’s seen players who break their guns and other players lend them weapons. There’s a couple who come out to ForestFire many weekends and bring sandwiches for other players.
Paintballers often have to rely on each other, metaphorically, to survive, Frenzel said. That often leads to friendships.
“Players are what make paintball great,” Frenzel said. “People come out because of people.”
• Doodlebug Sportz
3303 McDougall Ave., Everett; 9600 115th Ave. SE, Snohomish
425-257-9800 (indoor); 425-257-9771 (outdoor)
• ForestFire Paintball
17022 Burn Road, Arlington
• Eastside Paintball
21685 Lake Fontal Road, Monroe
Eastside also sublets space as Monkey Time Paintball at ForestFire on Sundays.