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Home to Wedding Receptions and Paintball Wars

A sports park's 13 theme areas include everything from skateboarding to BMX to a climbing wall.

May 17, 2003|Nancy Wride | Times Staff Writer

A waterfall splashed behind them at Hollywood Sports Park as bride and groom Judy and Vince Broome -- he in tux, she in gown -- posed for pictures. They had picked this Bellflower extreme sports park for their wedding reception.

As their formally dressed guests arrived, they saw in the distance cascades of dirt spraying from a bicycle track. They heard faint smacking skateboards competing with hollow plinking from gun-toting masked combatants, who darted around movie props and shot one another with paintballs.

From behind the romantic waterfall, a father and his sons climbed a sheer rock wall, shouting "I'm chickening out!" and "Dad's a wussy."

When the wedding photo shoot moved to the sand pit lined with palm-frond umbrellas, the dull thud of volleyballs ceased.

"They were playing, but they kind of moved out of the way," said Judy, 22, starting to giggle. "They were pretty nice about stopping the game for us."

Billed as the only park of multiple extreme sports, it's 29 acres and includes 13 theme areas, including seven paintball courses, a sand volleyball court, a skateboarding and inline skating arena, and a dirt BMX track. BMX stands for bicycle motocross, or bikes raced on dirt motorcycle tracks. The track was designed and built by pro rider Troy McMurry.

The park also has two arenas for a Brazilian style of soccer called futsal, played by five-person teams on concrete "fields" where eight leagues compete on weeknights.

The place is a mix of park-like picnic spots, loud rock music, lilting water features, a restaurant and a banquet hall added because professional sporting events always have award dinners.

Flanked by tire stores and mobile homes, the park sprawls along the railroad tracks near the corner of Somerset and Lakewood boulevards, near the Artesia, Century, Long Beach and San Gabriel River freeways. Park co-owner Giovanni D'Egidio said guests travel an average of 90 miles and spend about $50 per visit.

So far, he said, the park has produced more revenue for the city than the public golf course that it replaced.

The park takes on a fantasy atmosphere from movie props and sets from action, science fiction and war films such as "Saving Private Ryan," "Waterworld," "Tomb Raider," and "Starship Troopers."

Most of the props are located in the four movie-themed paintball galleries.

The object of a paintball game is for one of the two teams at opposite ends of the field to capture the other's flag and return "home" without getting shot with paint -- and ejected from play.

One of the better players is D'Egidio's 12-year-old son Alberto. Short and sturdy with an always-crooked baseball cap and the marketing skills of P.T. Barnum, he is widely known by the park's regulars as Bear, short for Alberto.

When not in school or performing altar boy duties, Bear promotes youth paintball tournaments "for the kids who can't maybe afford to play with a regular team."

Paintball isn't cheap. There's the cost of the paint and the air that pumps the gun, even if a player has his own protective wear and weapon, said Ben Chara, a 16-year-old who lives down the street. Ben said he loves the park, but he complained about the rule that requires him to buy the park's more expensive paint.

"This gun right here? I just spent $410," he said, his protective goggles pushed onto his forehead, paint ammunition packed into pods belted around his hips.

"We live three minutes away," added his friend, Jose Castillo, 16. "If they'd let us bring our own paint, we'd be here every day."

Park owners said the paint they require is designed to fade in 24 hours so playing field obstacles remain neutral backdrops.

Paintballs alone cost about $30 for 1,000 rounds. That kind of ammunition can last a day, or not, depending on how fast the gun is fired and how accurate the aim. For paintball only, weekday admission is $15; it goes up to $25 on weekends.

Some youths with the gear have season passes at $250 annually.

Admission to the skating and BMX areas ranges from $10 to $15, depending on the day.

But a $7 general admission ticket provides access to the rock climbing areas, the soccer arena, three-on-three basketball and the volleyball pit.

Later, the Broomes' wedding reception moved to the relative quiet of the banquet hall. Decorated with interiors from the horror movie "The Haunting," the scene had a certain "Dark Shadows" gothic romance.

Later, Judy said family and friends raved about the locale.

"This was just unique and different," she said. "A lot of our guests are going to go back and play."

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