Diving behind a stack of paint-splattered tires on the speedball field, the player catches his breath before unleashing fire on an opponent, who peeks out from behind a wooden spool. Next, they weave through brush-lined trails and take aim from lean-tos on the castle course or crawl through the tubes that throng the hyperball field. Before they commence these bouts on one of Brazos Splat Games' five fields, however, guests shield themselves in protective goggles and ready their semiautomatic markers in the netted staging area. Trained referees oversee 15- to 30-minute games that rotate through a variety of scenarios including Capture the Flag, Elimination, and Name That Rembrandt.
Play It Again Sports, a national franchise, hosts a sports-savvy staff that dedicates itself to providing growing athletes with new and used equipment from brands such as Easton, Rawlings, and Reebok. Shoppers can step up to bat with a cudgel from Easton ($19.99+) or pick up a frolfing disk ($3.99 used; $7.99 new) and never again waste an afternoon hammering golf balls flat. Play It Again Sports stocks its athletic arsenal with the help of its customers, offering buybacks for store credit, trade-ups for extra savings, and a lucrative bounty on baseballs saved from the maws of neighborhood dogs.
Sugar Land Dive Center’s store boasts scuba gear from brands such as Atomic, Oceanic and Sea Life, but their signature product is an intangible: a sense of confidence underwater. The PADI five-star dive center’s courses impart just that. After classroom-based instruction, the center’s open water instructors teach divers to breathe underwater and handle their complex gear by practicing in a pool. The program then culminates in a series of real open water dives, which result in open water certification more useful than its earlier incarnation, certification to open water that’s in an aluminum can.
Sugar Land Dive Center also teaches more specialized courses that can transform open water-certified divers into future rescue divers and PADI instructors. For a fusion of dive practice and vacation, students can also travel the world on international scuba trips, which whisk participants to locales such as Cozumel and Fiji.
The Sugar Land Ice & Sports Center conceals a chilly oasis for winter-sports fans to practice and have fun all year long, whether it's the day after Christmas or a steamy 100-degree afternoon in July. Between its two rinks, the center hosts staff-supervised public-skating sessions nearly every day in addition to a wide range of youth and adult hockey events—including practices for the former AHL champion Houston Aeros. Inside Rink A, a spacious seating area and café invites visitors to break from their icy escapades and reenergize with a snack. Also away from the ice, the onsite pro shop sharpens blades and repairs skates so clients can carve their way across rinks and the halls of imposing ice castles.
The manmade, 12-acre lake at Wake Nation Houston was designed for wakeboarding, but there's not a single boat on it. Instead, a system of cables and pulleys whisks wakeboarders along the placid surface in much the same way towropes pull astronauts to the moon. Aided by supportive instructors, beginners learn the fundamentals of the sport with the use of a practice cable on a smaller practice pond before taking to the main lake. More advanced aquatic acrobats, meanwhile, soar off floating jumps and slalom around obstacles.
Despite its name, the park isn't exclusively for wakeboarders. Its cables can just as easily haul visitors on kneeboards, water skis, and wake-skates. Water-shy guests can watch their friends from an observation deck, browse the pro shop, or nosh on snacks from the concession stand.
Since its founding in 1980, Sun & Ski Sports has remained true to its philosophy: “do a few things, but do them better than anybody else.” The shop stocks equipment in five categories of extreme and outdoor activities, including camping, skating, running, bicycling, and water and snow sports. It specializes in these to ensure its merchandise maintains a high standard of quality, and its employees are knowledgeable participants in the sports their department represents.
Bikers can drop off their steeds for tune-ups from certified mechanics who put all brands through the rigors of a 12-point inspection, checking chains and adjusting wobbly pedals and malfunctioning spoke-card motors. While waiting, curious eyes might linger on a North Face two-person tent, a Blackburn Airtower bicycle pump, or a vast selection of shoes from brands such as New Balance and Asics. Men and women can traipse nearly barefoot in the park with Vibram FiveFingers, which offer minimal structural encumbrances for a more natural stride, or cast their feet aside for the new-wheeled prowess that comes with a Fuji SL-1 LE Ultegra performance road bike.