October 8, 2013


Family opens paintball business

ShootJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Owners Jim Zelsnak and his sons Tyler, center, and Jordan, right, test out paintball equipment on Thursday at their new business, Three Alarm Paintball, in Marathon.

Staff Reporter

MARATHON — In August, the Zelsnack family opened its land to the public in the hopes of getting residents excited about a popular sport — paintball.
James Zelsnack, a paramedic and firefighter for the city of Cortland, transformed roughly 5 acres of land on his family’s farm into three separate areas for people to come to play paintball, a game in which participants simulate military combat using air guns to shoot capsules of paint at each other.
Third Alarm Paintball opened at 3227 Zelsnack Road.
Zelsnack said the idea for the business was born from getting together with co-workers and relatives and playing in the wooded area on the property for the last 10 years.
“When my kids got old enough we started playing all the time,” Zelsnack said. “We always had their friends up and guys from the fire department. It just evolved and grew ... and we decided to open up.”
Third Alarm has a 150 by 120 foot, netted regulation-size speedball field complete with inflatable bunkers designed for fast-paced group play adjacent to a round bale scenario field.
There is also a wooded area toward the back of the property where more adventurous players can engage in a furtive game of woodsball.
People can call and schedule group events and when players arrive, Third Alarm provides them guns and protective gear or they can bring their own equipment, but Zelsnack said for safety reasons, players are forbidden to bring their own ammo.
Zelsnack and his sons, Jordan, 19, and Tyler, 20, operate the shop on weekends with their father and are responsible for doing everything from teaching people the basics of paintball to refereeing games for players.
“We’re very into paintball,” James Zelsnack said. “It really is a family business.”
Jordan Zelsnack said some people who come to experience paintball for the first time are a little hesitant about getting shot, but by the time they get off the field, they always want more.
“It’s such an addictive sport,” he said. “Once people play it, they fall in love with the sport; that’s what happened to me.”
But in case people are still reluctant to take a shot from a regular paintball, Third Alarm also has a variety of splatball guns which fire smaller rounds at a lower velocity so even children ages 10 and older can play.
Tyler Zelsnack, who has been working with his brother to recruit players from Binghamton where they attend Broome Community College, has been receiving positive feedback and said Third Alarm is the place for people interested in becoming more serious about the sport.
“If (players) want to start joining teams or getting their own equipment, we basically have everything they need,” he said. “We have contacts with teams and leagues if they want to get competitive.”
Even though the facility just opened, the Zelsnacks say the family already has some plans in the works for paintball enthusiasts. This year, Third Alarm will be adding a twist to the traditional fall hayride. Participants can either ride into the woodsball field to fend off zombies with splatball guns or use the zombies for target practice on a shooting range.
James Zelsnack said Third Alarm is still expanding and the family plans to build more scenario fields next year. In the meantime, he encourages people who want to experience paintball in a safe environment to come to try the sport for themselves.
“If you like an adrenaline rush, this is the sport,” Zelsnack said. “I’ve actually been playing a lot. It’s an absolute blast.”


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