For Valley’s Kris Phillips, the event was filled with excitement.
“When you’re out in a field, you have a lot of places where you can hide – things you can hide behind,” the 35-year-old said before getting ready for a 20-minute game inside the former Cold War bunker on Sunday. “It’s really close quarters in here – it’s really something else. Here, you can be fighting in the hallways.”
Hosted by bunker owner Jonathan Baha’i and Camp Debert Army Paintball’s Gary MacKenzie, the weekend event had 110 players register on Saturday, with 115 register for Sunday’s games.
Saturday was a Mag Fed Tactical game (TacCaps and 50-round hoppers) with players limited to the number of balls they could take on each mission. Sunday saw an open class with squads of 20 dispersed throughout the bunker battling it out in a series of games.
“(On Saturday) it was big excitement for us – we had been in the bunker to help Gary set some things up, but we weren’t allowed to actually circulate inside the bunker,” Phillips said. “When play starts, it’s a totally different feel.”
Working at Hollis Ford in Truro, Phillips and Shannon MacCallum put together the team for the weekend event. MacCallum was hoping to participate, however caught the flu bug just prior and wasn’t able to make it.
“Last year, we started playing at Gary’s (Camp Debert Army Paintball) field and it gave us all a chance to come together,” said Phillips, adding 18 players made up the Hollis team on Sunday, including himself. “In the last year, we’ve usually been playing nine on nine, shooting at guys we know, but here we could come together as a team and go up against other people.
“It’s been a hoot, to say the least.”
Owning Camp Debert Army Paintball for about 20 years now, MacKenzie said it was a no-brainer when Baha’i approached him to help put together the event.
“This is the coolest place on the planet,” said the 57-year-old. “I never thought playing inside the bunker was going to happen. I leapt at the chance and it’s been fantastic.”
From across Nova Scotia and into both New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, participants traveled to the bunker for the weekend.
“The paint has been great and the people have been phenomenal. Playing paintball is like hanging off a bungee cord – and in here, it’s dark and you don’t know what’s around the corner. It’s intense.”
Since purchasing the bunker at a tax sale in November, Baha’i has been thinking of ways to use the bunker while waiting for a six-month redemption period to pass (he can’t do any renovations inside during the six months).
“I contacted Gary because I thought it would be a great way to support local business,” said Baha’i, while wearing a safety vest and protective headgear inside a safe zone during one of the games. “My neighbor is the Debert Hospitality Centre, and Gary’s paintball business is close by. It’s a chance to bring some tourism in and a chance to reconnect with the community.”