During the Cold War, anything could happen. The US military's response to this reality was to ring every major metropolitan area with defensive missile bases that could launch Nike antiaircraft supersonic missiles at any time. The goal was to make attacking the United States so costly that the Soviets would not dare try. One of the roughly 20 bases defending the Chicago area was Nike Missile Base C-47, a 14-acre site built between 1954 and 1956. Surrounded by 8-foot-tall cyclone fences, the base housed three underground concrete bunkers, three launchers, five radar towers, a fallout shelter, and day barracks.
Today, the Cold War is safely tucked in the nation's memory, but much of C-47 still remains. However, instead of military personnel coming and going throughout their 24-hour shifts, it's paintball and Airsoft players who creep along the 10 sprawling fields, simulating the warfare that luckily never occurred on the base. The terrain includes many of the original features—such as a mess hall, army barracks, and satellite towers, which host strategic meetings and midbattle naps. Referees enforce special safety rules for minors to keep games safe and organized.
Deadwood certainly seems abandoned. A wooden church, saloon, and jail all line the main drag, which looks relatively untouched from the town's apocryphal founding in 1876. But then it happens: a small orb of paint zooms down from the roof of the nearby inn, revealing that you are not alone. The ghost town comes back to life in a high-speed game of paintball.
Fort Knox Paintball looks like something out a paintball player's wildest dreams, assuming their dreams are monitored by friendly judges. The outdoor grounds sprawl across more than a dozen play areas, including "The Town of Deadwood" and the "Bridge on the River Kwai." That long, wooden bridge takes players over water and within sight of the POW Camp, where opponents might lurk inside any building. An 86-foot long pirate ship helps players disappear into the Bermuda Triangle, and then there's the eponymous Fort Knox field. Five towers and three stories form a secure team base?but the surrounding woods offers countless places for invaders to hide.
In addition to walk-on play, Fort Knox Paintball often hosts "big games," during which the best paintball players can compete for victory.
At Action Park Paintball, paintballers of all skill levels square off in bouts of simulated warfare on 23 acres of outdoor fields. Tire towers, inflatable obstacles, and Mother Nature's secret hide-and-seek spots provide cover for players engaging in shootouts, all of which are moderated by on-field refs. Action Park's 8,000-square-foot indoor arena ensures play can continue even in inclement weather. The facility also hosts regular tournaments and has a winter league for paintball teams. Open-play hours take place on Tuesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Originally constructed to host large-scale tournaments, The Badlandz Paintball Field now accommodates recreational play across more than 400 acres of outdoor forts, creeks, and open fields. Open play draws beginning, intermediate, and advanced paintballers into challenging and fun scenarios. Multiple games kick off simultaneously, sending combatants headlong into battle on isolated fields, with players divvied up based on ability, equipment type, and Duck Hunt high scores to ensure a level playing field. Warriors navigate natural and manmade obstacles as they pummel competitors with polychromatic ammo throughout the woodsball, hyperball, airball, and x-ball courts. Methods of gameplay include elimination, capture the flag, and protect the president and encourage individual or team strategies such as designating snipers or concealing teammates in piles of chameleons. Badlandz staffers patrol the sprawling arena to enforce the game's rules and to ensure that all participants follow the field's stringent safety regulations. Players can bring their own paintballs or purchase them onsite. The facility also runs airsoft games during weekend open play.
Housed inside of an airplane-hanger-like building with a high, A-frame ceiling, Chicagoland Paintball's battleground yields paintballing matches during all seasons. The center suits up players in rental gear before sending them onto the green turf floor to navigate mammoth inflatable X- and barrel-shaped obstacles. After the paint clouds clear, teams can agree to an armistice as they nosh on pepperoni pizzas and slurp down slushies at the onsite snack bar. And in the adjoining lounge, they recharge and recover with free WiFi and cable TV, plus nearby shower facilities that promote cleaner car rides home.