PSP Events

Statement from PSP’s Lane Wright

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.

12 Responses

  1. Ross Emerson

    I think having an entry fee of merely $5 to view the event or the day or $10 bucks to go for the whole event is a good idea. This $5 a person can help PSP exponentially.

  2. Jos

    For all the people outside of the US, it would be awesome if there was a webcast of every PSP event. I’m sure people are willing to pay a few bucks if they could see the top teams competing online.

    1. Thank you Jos, unfortunately a few bucks per person doesn’t come close to covering the costs of a webcast – at least not a webcast at the caliber that PSP has broadcasted in the past.

  3. Kyle

    At first i was not very fond of the changes being made. i have always loved psp’s current race-to format. but what you have said is correct. Paintball has been changing and getting more competitive and fast paced (thus making it cost more and appeal to a small amount of people). This along with the failing economy is doing nothing more than hurting the sport so as you put it, we need to go backwards in order to go forwards in the future. this means that for the people that play paintball. even if we do not like the changes being made, we must adapt just like psp. in order to keep the game that we all love above the water.

  4. christian

    i agree, being a 13 year old player, adding an under 16 division would make me want to play. no one likes to get wrecked by some guy thats been playing paintball longer than he’s been alive.

  5. J.R. griffin

    I think that maby they should bring back 10 man. Tthat would give the people that may not be as fast or as athletic a format that they could play under. Maby that will bring back older players that played past events and give them a new begining.

  6. Skeet

    I understand the pressure a business faces today in the market. I can see how paintball like all recreational business nationally is down a far higher percentage than commodity based industry. However the field and bunker changes are unacceptable.

    If NASCAR (and I use this example as it mirrors paintball in so many ways) were to tell the track owners that they would have to change the size of the tracks insanity would soon ensue.

    Any paintball league is based on the success of every operational field that is even running speedball at this time. To expect such a burden to be shouldered by the basically mom and pop short money businesses that
    literally introduce the player, inspire him/her to be passionate, and provide them with the basic community to begin a sportsmanlike approach to what is already a nearly motorsport like cost is frankly unrealistic and unfair.

    To even change a single field to a larger format with let’s say only ten new bunkers is just off the top of my head estimation a $30,000 expense for some fields. Fields that will be taking a hit for lack of player practice due to no knowledge of tourney layouts. Fields who have new casual players missing the chance to see division anything players provide the inspiration that comes with seeing someone decked head to toe in dye with that awesome gun cradled. And those are the fields that pay. The ones that can’t will fold as players travel further less often to the ones who did.

    Paintball has always as far as an industry defined itself by essentially no name brands in the public eye. In looking for team sponsors people struggle because of the violent undertones of a sport based around shooting. Where is Remington? Where is the NRA? Where is Nike or reebok or underarmor or ford? We as a solely player driven industry need to decide as a whole which side of the fence we are going to seek sponsorship and real exposure from.

    I know everyone gets nervous about the gun issue but with the unreal success of games based around first person shooters, and the incredibly high percentage of our player base being firearm owners maybe it’s time for us to identify with that aspect. The gun manufactures don’t seem to have any problem allowing their product likenesses to be licensed out to the game makers. All other industries don’t seem to be returning our calls.

    I don’t see NASCAR cars covered in logos for only ford and sunoco, why are we capped at it? I’m sure that psp does all it can to secure sponsorship from industries but this is where the focus has to be to grow our industry. Where are we in brokering a deal with the x games for world cup? What are the problems with recognition? Where is psp’s half hour slot once a week primetime on G4 if we can’t get regular sports coverage?

    Changing the field size won’t help. Faster smaller players are still faster. Changing bunkers won’t help. The farther larger bunkers will be inactive and out of play.

    Removing coaching does nothing to the game at a novice level which is where new revenue must be generated. No matter how much more cost effective you make events $20 twice rather then forty once doesn’t make a dollar more.

    No matter what the player base increase percentage you expect from changing the game itself you will hurt attendance of some of the players who expect a rigid format. The players who are whining now about the game will continue to whine and really need to cycle over to scenario ball where the less demanding play has an equally satisfying experience and benefits the industry as well.

    Possibly the answer is to allow fields to host psp events freely and submit the participating teams and the win placements/ratios to psp. The better w/l ratios can be held in higher regard. Richer teams can afford more events however more events will merely give a more accurate w/l ratio not a better one. This levels the fiscal field. Higher ratios over set periods of time in the season will be invited to participate in qualifiers for cup.

    Many sports have weight classes. Most happen to be single participant such as boxing or mma. But that doesn’t mean paintball cannot do the same. Two weight classes. Based on a combined weight of all team members with the mean weight being 180 lbs. 180 is around the defining difference between fast and small or too tall or to heavy. Teams that weigh in under are lightweight class and over are heavyweight respectfully. This could be adjusted seasonally until the league is satisfied with the level of play. Heavyweight class could also play with a larger bunker setup. Physical limitations resolved. An exhibition match could be held at cup between the classes for fun. Or not.

    Bluntly put I feel the changes you seek will turn fields and the players they sponsor against psp. I feel like the suggestions and or player observations that have led to the proposed changes will leave the same players who are at a disadvantage now at the exact same disadvantage proportionately in both the physical and fiscal aspects. You’ll drive players who seek to excel at speedball from their local fields for practice reducing paintballs already limited market saturation.

    Please reconsider.

  7. Gabe

    Just my two cents
    To up revenues, charging people a small fee for entrance into the event even as spectators isnt such a bad idea. Spectators far outnumber the teams participating at the event. a 5$ fee to each person would hardly hurt the persons wallet, yet at the same time PSP could gain large amounts of revenue depending on attendance. A simple wristband system to show you paid entrance fee could be implemented. Furthermore, in a spectators eyes, 5$ is worth it to view many of the new products put out by companies, view many teams playing in entertaining matches, and being one of the first to get a look at new gear. Even 10$ is worth it. A good example which mirrors this scenario is a local gun show held at a convention center nearby to where I live. Many gun dealers and other vendors showcase their goods, and we pay an entrance fee of about 7$. If firearm enthusiasts do not mind paying 7$ to view guns, then I dont see why paintball enthusiasts would mind paying 7$ to see new products.

    Also, From comments put above, some video coverage would also be great. Webcasts are pretty important, if you could set up cameras on each field in different angles, and script the website with links to the division you want to see then this is also a viable revenue source. Like a reality show stationary cameras could be used, and the viewer of the webcast could be able to choose which camera he/she wishes to see. PSP see’s the decline in attendance, and most of it has to do with the inability to afford being able to travel. I doubt teams have an issue paying the PSP’s fees to participate in the tournament, the problem comes down to affording the plane tickets (each one ending up being double of what the player has to put in to just his entrance fee) and also affording other expenses. thats why there is such a large decline in the hospitality and tourism industry. This is a sole reason attendance has become so low at PSP. So like its been said before, video coverage should be implemented and charged to viewers, much like a payper view event. (which usually run about 50$ or more).

    All in all, PSP should stop relying simply on industries and players. Implement some changes that will also get enthusiasts, and spectators to contribute to these events as well.

    I would have loved to watch, and would have gladly payed 40-60$ to watch this years world cup on a webcast or some type of media coverage. Instead all I could do was wait till it was over, read forums on what happened, and watch short youtube clips.

  8. pedro almeida

    Skeet /ignored.

    well, all what is new, or changes, makes us scared at the beginning.

    i agree with the internet broadcast idea… its a great idea.

    masters league 30+ old players would be nice, as mature we get the gameplay changes…
    i’m 25 right now, and i see myself playing with my son one day…

    brazilians still wait as CBP will add the PSP changes in their competitions, but most of all brazilian blogs and sites about it, are not complaining, and we have to export the equipment wich makes it more expensive to us then for you guys…

    adapt or be extinct, it’s a nature basic law!

Leave a Reply