A Virginia-based paintball venue operator is in negotiations for a 5-year land lease to open a venue in Kissimmee on vacant land that backs up to Margaritaville Resort.
The property, once part of the long-defunct Splendid China attraction, abuts the Formosa Garden shopping center and the back entrance to Margaritaville.
Chen said he’s also in discussions with Orlando-based Property Investment Brokers as a potential co-tenant. PIB’s Keith Trace told GrowthSpotter the firm approached Chen and Rotella to discuss a complementary attraction that could co-locate on the 19-acre site that formerly hosted the Florida Blueberry Festival.
“It’s really serendipitous that he called," Chen said. “If we can bring it all to fruition, it’s just perfect for the site.”
Rotella founded the EPL and currently operates three divisions in Virginia and New Jersey. The Kissimmee project would be his Florida market entry and would appeal to local players, team tournaments, recreational players and tourists. He anticipates an average of 300 customers per day.
“This one will focus more on tourists," he said. “There’s another aspect of paintball called ‘scenarios’ where you try to recreate a video game experience or historical event."
For example, the company would design a seasonal month-long attraction in October where guests would load into a truck and shoot paintballs at staff members dressed as zombies. “The zombies don’t shoot back,” he said.
The project would be developed in two phases, according the business plan, and each playing field would be surrounded by protective netting. Rotella said the company uses environmentally-friendly, biodegradable standard and “low-impact” paintballs, as well as Nerf darts and laser tag.
“One of the problems with a lot of paintball fields is they look like there’s a bunch of trash,” Rotella said. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and I understand perception is everything. If your paintball field looks like a junkyard, you’ll get junkyard clients.”
Kissimmee has a long history of hosting paintball activities, including national tournaments at Austin-Tindall Regional Park. Rotella said the activity can co-exist with luxury tourist accommodations, noting that the 4-star Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center hosted the NXL Paintball World Cup last month, which draws thousands of players.
The plan would be to operate daily until 10 pm, and he said the project should comply with the county’s noise ordinance because the markers (guns) are quieter than the ones used in the past.
“The paintball technology has improved from if you look up any kind of decibel reading online, you’re going to see 10-year-old data,” Rotella said. “Now, the industry itself has made drastic improvements.”
But while the zoning isn’t a problem, development costs could be. Because the lease is only for five years, Rotella was hoping to use temporary structures, such as shipping container buildings, for the office and storage facilities. But the county’s building inspector told him the structures would have to be set on foundations. The facility also would have to have permanent restrooms and paved parking, and would be subject to over $15,000 per acre impact fees.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story misstated the amount of potential impact fees for the paintball attraction.