December 29, 2010
My name is Lane Wright. Some of you will recognize me as “the guy who runs PSP”. More specifically, I am the Chief Operating Officer for PSP Events, LLC. I am also a partner in the corporation. So, in layman terms, I am one of the owners of PSP and the guy who runs the day-to-day operations of the company.
Lots of you may not realize that I got into paintball as a player. No matter what level of player you may be within this game, I was once just like you. I played recreationally. I played on a scenario team. I played local tournaments in the beginning. I worked my way through the ranks of tournament play from the bottom to eventually playing on professional teams and traveling the world competing at the highest level. I’ve served as coach and organizer for a local team of kids and was the captain of one of the greatest pro teams in the sport.
I also ran local events of all kinds, regional tournaments, and International tournaments. I’ve owned stores, small fields, large fields, worked in the manufacturing side of the industry, etc. I came into the position that led to my running PSP through my work as one of the players selected by my peers to represent them in talks with the owners of the events about how the league was being run. In other words, I was one of the representatives selected by the players in the NPPL to do battle with the PSP. I was there to tell them how to run the events from the players’ point of view. As I listened and learned what actually went on to make the events happen, I realized I could do more good from the inside than from the outside.
This isn’t about my life story. But I do believe some history is worth mentioning so people can see who it is that makes the decisions that take this company and league forward.
Today – and this is what matters – I work day in and day out to assure PSP Events, LLC functions to the best of its abilities at running paintball competitions throughout the United States. That includes overseeing the venues, rules, formats, classifications, structure, scheduling, etc. I also have to consider the economic situation within which we operate these events. There is a business that needs to function in order for any of the aforementioned to take place.
I believe that PSP has facilitated the operational side of the tournaments quite well. Based on the feedback we receive from changes we have implemented, it seems the players are so satisfied with the current product, that they want no change. That is a positive. But it is only one side of the issue.
The other side of the issue is the business that has to function behind, or along side, the events.
As everyone is aware, the economy is abysmal. All indicators are that the best-case scenario is a slow and painful path back to recovery. PSP is caught in this phenomenon with everyone else.
While most of you seem to be appreciative of the way the tournaments have been run, I have to take the current state of PSP’s financial situation, and the predictable future financial situation into consideration on a daily basis. Without a sound financial plan in place, the events cannot and will not continue to happen.
Every business runs with some set of financial considerations. Those considerations consist of two basic parts – income and expense. Obviously, when expense exceeds income, the business either adapts or dies.
PSP’s income has dropped for 5 consecutive years. I have adjusted our expenses, to the best of my ability, accordingly.
PSP’s income will drop again in 2011. It will drop significantly.
PSP’s income has always come from 2 sources – the players and the industry.
The economy has taken a toll on the player’s wallet. The economy has devastated the industry’s financial situation. Both of which bode poorly for PSP’s ability to maintain a solvent business. And a solvent business is absolutely pertinent to PSP running the events.
I cannot fix the economy. I cannot fix the industry. I cannot fix the current players financial situation.
I take the projected costs of running PSP for 2011 as the starting point for my business plan. I subtract the amount of money that I can reasonably expect from the ailing industry. The balance is the amount of money needed from the teams/players. If I take that number and divide it by the number of teams I can expect to attend the events – it simply is an unreasonable expectation to believe those teams can pay that amount of money.
That is the reality of the dilemma PSP is faced with, and the dilemma that you as players are faced with – whether you see it or believe it or not.
I cannot get more money from the industry. It doesn’t exist. I don’t believe there is a lot more money that can come from the teams. I have cut costs to the point that any additional cost cutting would jeopardize the ability of the company to provide even reasonably sufficient events for the people who pay to be there.
The only reasonable option I see is to try to increase the appeal of our events to a greater number of people. This will make them more willing to contribute entry fees into the event.
That’s what I am trying to do.
As I said earlier, our attendance has dropped over the past few years. Some of that has to do with the economy. Some of that has to do with the way we have structured the format.
There is little that I can do with the economy and it’s impact on teams. But I can try to make it so that some teams can feel they have a reasonable expectation of being competitive while spending a little less money in the process. I believe that not having the event specific layout available months prior to the tournament will allow teams who do not have the financial ability to run full on scrimmages 5 times before an event feel more likely to be at least competitive enough to attend.
At the same time, the teams who have been attending 1 event in a season may now enter 2 events in a season as the cost of practice will lessen being there is no means or reason to shoot tons of paint at another team in 5 full on scrimmages on the layout. Teams can just go practice paintball.
There are also people who have stopped playing our events because of the physical demands of the format. I’m not willing to completely undo what we have created. Again, I believe that we provide the format that gives the best team the best chance at winning the events. Obviously, a lot of you feel the same way too. The problem is that there are not enough of us who feel that way to pay for it to be that way. We need help.
I am trying to compromise in order to get that help.
Lengthening the fields and adjusting the bunker placement are efforts to give a wider variety of people a sense that they can now be a little more competitive. This is in hopes that they will once again start to make the choice to attend the events. We had all shapes, sizes, and ages in the events 10 years ago. Changes were made and these made people stop coming. At this point, I’m not willing to make wholesale changes back to 1999. I like what we do today. But, if I want to keep what we are doing alive, I see the need to compromise. We need some of those people back in the sport at this level to sustain it.
There are people who hold the good ol’ days of paintball near and dear to their heart. Nostalgia is a prevalent “emotion” in all sports. It was awesome for us. Today seems awesome for some of you. The difference is that back then – the game thrived. Today the sport is not only not thriving; it’s not even stagnant. It is absolutely in decline. And to put it bluntly, in it’s current position it isn’t sustainable. There are simply not enough people willing to play in the current format to pay the cost of having the events.
I do not agree entirely with the mentality that coaching and crowd participation has taken the skill out of the game. I see people play with coaching and can easily recognize those with skill sets beyond others still win. PERIOD. Even with that said, there is an aspect of the format that we play that keeps others from feeling their skill set – the mental capacity to read an opponents and adjust accordingly – is no longer tangible. I see that as well. We need those people to come back into this sport. Those people, by and large, are a little older, a little slower, and possibly a little less fit. They have learned to use their mind where their body can’t get the job done. They are out there. They played before. They enjoyed it. We need them back. And, again, by in large, these are the types of people who have money to contribute. I am not willing to completely upend the competitive integrity of the format to include them. But, I do see the need to try to adjust some of the things we are doing to get some of them back into our sport. We do need those players.
Taking pit side coaching out of the format will allow some of the people opposed to the format to see a way to get back in. It will be an adjustment for those who are used to having it. PSP will be considerate of that adjustment period. The best teams will win. The best players will shine. The tournaments will still be entertaining, fun, and competitive.
Tournament paintball has been around longer than most of our current players have been alive. It flourished on huge fields, with no coaching, and before anyone ever heard of a layout.
Teams practiced. Fields not only survived; they grew exponentially. Good teams became great teams. Players practiced and got better. Great players developed and became recognized for their talents. Everything players should want today has happened forever and will continue to happen, so long as there is a means for paying for it to happen.
That’s all I am trying to do. I am trying to find a way to pay for these events. The industry is no longer willing or able to subsidize the entry fees with the money needed to make these events happen. The current player doesn’t have the money to contribute to make up for the loss of industry money we are experiencing. I am trying to get more people to see this as a viable source of entertainment worthy of their contribution so that we can stay around.
Some of you see this as taking steps backwards. So be it. I don’t agree. But even if I did, I see nothing wrong with taking a step back to sustain ourselves so that we live to have a chance to eventually go forward again. Hopefully, we will do just that. As long as I’m making the decisions here, I intend to go forward with the best of intentions for the sport and the players in mind. I intend to use the experiences of the past to not repeat mistakes. I intend to look at the reality of what we are faced with and make the correct adjustments. I intend to give the sport the best opportunity to be all it can be. Just as I have been doing, just as I am doing today. It won’t always be easy. It won’t always please everyone. No different than in the past and no different than it is today.
Paintball as you know it today has evolved. In the ideal world there would be thousands of teams clamoring for the chance to play at the national level. This would allow the subsequently thriving industry to be in the position to kick in the big bucks PSP would be able to charge them. Such a world could attract outside money to subsidize event costs. And the costs associated with playing at the top would be minimal for the teams as they would be the stars of the sport. But the reality of the matter is this simply isn’t the case. Chasing that dream, while noble and enchanting, is simply not prudent today. I’m not letting go of the goal. I’m simply realizing that we have to survive today if we ever hope to achieve it in the future. Survival today means we need to open up the revenue stream to more people. To do that – changes have to be made.
Right now, there are things that inhibit lots of people who are competitive by nature and who like the sport of paintball from coming into the PSP. There are others that the nature of the current format chew them up and spit them out. I am trying to change that while having the least amount of negative impact possible. It is my sincere hope that all of you as players and supporters of the PSP will give these changes time to take effect and in the meantime will continue to support and enjoy competing in the PSP.