As an airsoft event host, I can appreciate the struggles and challenges of creating a well run airsoft event. The time it takes to find a field, setting up a series of evolutions that flow with some continuity, insuring that all participants act in a safe, sane, and courteous manner, providing refreshments and selling concessions and merchandise; the list stretches on and on. It’s no easy feat to accomplish, and not everyone is cut out for the job of simply refereeing a game while your friends get all the fun. Not to say that you can’t have fun. Actually, there is no greater satisfaction than to have, at the end of the day, smiles on the faces of the people who came to your game. Your game. The one you sweat and struggled and planned and stressed about for weeks on end. The one that meant so much to have five people come out to, or fifty. Those people who show up are the people who believe in you. They believe that you and your game were worth their time and money. In the end, people vote with their wallets, as they saying goes.
Which brings me to my adventure in Utah. I have made several personal trips down to Salt Lake City now, and have wanted to find an indoor arena to play at. I had figured that Salt Lake City would be big enough with a community large enough to support one, so, a simple Google search revealed that there was a brand spanking new field just a few blocks from the heart of downtown SLC, as of January 2015.
I finally found an excuse and a weekend to make it down, (which is all I need), and made the trek down. I left on Friday, staying that night in Boise, and arrived the following day at the arena at around 2:00pm, an excellent time, I might add. My anxiety started to build as I thought, “Geez, what have I done?! I’ve traveled twelve hours to get here, and for airsoft?”
For those of you who might say that I’m a bit obsessed, I would disagree. I’m terribly obsessed. I love the game. I love the adrenaline rush you get, the grip of fear and excitement in your chest that boils up as you quietly stalk an elusive opponent. The thrill of battle minus the terror of death. I’m an adrenaline junkie. More accurately, I’m an adrenaline addict.
In coming to an indoor arena, I’m slightly out of my element. I feel like I navigate fallen logs, tall grass, and brambles better than I do a concrete sidewalk (then again, I also can’t chew bubble gum and walk at the same time). From my experience at Nitehawk Airsoft and other urban-esque field types, I can testify that urban or indoor fighting is a very different animal from outdoor fighting. Instead of drawn out engagements where flanking, patience, and smarts matter most, indoor fighting comes down to one crucial thing; speed. If you move faster than the other guy can think, you win. SWAT tactics reflect this mentality of overwhelming firepower and blistering velocity in their takedowns. I would say this is the best strategy for indoor games, and this was also seen in the play of experienced veterans at Milsim City. The better players simply operated faster than their slower opponents.
So in saying that, I didn’t expect to perform nearly as well as other, more seasoned players. Is my experience any less important to read because of that? I leave you to be the judge.
Returning to my experience, I brought my gear inside a double set of large glass doors, one set having a poster proudly boasting the titular name, “MILSIM CITY”, and stepped into the lobby. To my right hung a banner, then directly forward of the lobby a large set of wood doors, and to the left was a small storefront and formica countertop. Two Square iPads sat on the countertop where I could register, sign my waiver, and purchase accessories. Very cool, I thought. Gave me the impression “High Speed, Low-Drag” right away.
To my left was a large ready room, with plenty of tables and chairs for getting gear ready. There was plenty of space there throughout the night, I didn’t have to share space at all, despite the 40 plus person attendance that night. When I arrived, there couldn’t have been more than 20 people on field, a goodly bunch of them experienced airsofters and off duty referees.
Safety briefing was, well, brief, and happened right at the front counter. Might be a plus since I’m pretty experienced with airsoft, and have –I think– a pretty decent grasp on what is a good idea to do and what isn’t, like taking off your mask on field, but it must be said. Maybe I’m used to a formal, organized briefing for a full, day long skirmish. Perhaps this is a strong extension of trust given me. Did I feel safe on field? Oh yes, and 95% of players operated in a safe manner. One incident of blind firing happened to me that night, but I talked to the guy about it and we cleared it up pretty quickly (turned out it was his second game, and for that, I can more easily forgive). But one thing I would hope MSC does in the future is have some kind of check to make sure everyone on field has participated in a safety briefing. This is really important!
Same with chronographing; for the most part, I feel everyone played by the rules, no one used a hot gun on field that night. Can I be certain? No, because there wasn’t a formal safety briefing or set time to chronograph. Is this overlookable? No; safety is safety, and I must say these things so things may change. I gotta be honest, to the guys who want to go, who do go, and who host the game. I feel pretty certain that they will read this review, and will improve. After talking with one of the managers and the on field refs, I feel very confident that the kinks and bumps that accompany any new field or club will be worked out.
I was uncertain of whether or not full face protection was required or recommended. The rules on their website claim it is required, but I found one player running about without a lower face mask, and wearing safety glasses. I was slightly jealous, actually. The considerations are twofold. I hate lower face protection and how it interferes with good cheek weld, but at an indoor field, do I want to risk not having PPE over my mouth? (Personally, I’d much rather run shooters glasses versus full seal goggles. I was running Smith Boogie Regulators, and even they fogged up constantly). I am agreeable to the conditions of play, though.
Staff there seems to be a newer staff of folks comprising enthusiasts and veteran players alike. They were understanding of how the game of airsoft works and decent at enforcing rules and safety procedures. There were a few incidents of not calling hits that night, one incident of blind firing (previously mentioned), a set of incidents where full auto was used (the refs were pretty quick to clamp down on that one) and one misunderstanding that occurred where a grenade was tossed into a building. I’m still not sure whether or not that was against that round’s rules or not (players on one side were saying it was okay, other players were saying it was not). Staffers are enthusiastic about the game, and you can’t be good at running games if you aren’t enthusiastic! Who actually wants to sit out a game and watch the fun go on around you, and then enforce rules that may preclude your friends from having more fun? So I have much respect for any airsofter willing to staff and ref a game.
I would expect that as time rolls on, staff will get better. They aren’t bad, but a great staff keeps things running smoothly, which I felt, at times, the fast paced environment that MilSim City wants to be slowed down below the speed limit.
I noticed this especially when games were getting rolled together, at about mid to late afternoon. I might blame this on players just as much as staff, as it took (and always takes) some time for players to get their act together and on field. Maybe this is just a Saturday thing, too. But weekends should be an arena’s bread and butter, right? Most people are out of school, off of work, on vacation? Games should roll one right after the other. It isn’t easy to do, but it is doable. This is an experience thing, and easily overlook-able considering that once things did get rolling, it rolled fast and loud.
Now I’ve been pointedly finding flaws with MSC’s , partially because I have such high expectations and also because I know how awesome they can make it. At the time of writing this review, they’ve been open three months, so I’ll be forgiving of any flaws they might have. I don’t think any of the aforementioned mistakes are as a result of negligence, an unforgivable sin in my mind.
Now, on to some really positive things. The glowing, outstanding, positive things that I’ve been dying to talk about.
First, I gotta say, I freaking love this field. Best indoor field I have ever been to, and the best urban one as well. Well groomed, well cared for, professional, dynamic, superb! Tons of buildings to duck in and out of. Low windows to hop in and out of (an excellent idea, too. Makes gameplay more interesting! Cover was varied: cars, trucks, headless baby dolls (that was hilarious, in a dark sort of way), alleyways, doorways, closets, houses, a bank, a jail, a tower, barrels, tires, pallet stacks. The lighting was pretty fair, too. It was excellent fun!
I felt like this field excelled in ease of maneuvering. You can sprint from one end of the field to the other in under a minute, but you can run through houses, jump through windows, slide around pallet stacks, and you can do it in one of a dozen different ways. Very fluid feeling. It’s never the same spawn point, either, and that was an excellent touch. Any salty vet will tell you it gets old starting at the same building every time, the same game happening over and over again repeatedly until you can run the game backwards, upside down, and blindfolded. This field doesn’t suffer from that. I also felt like there weren’t any real “choke points” where any game bogged down. Every game felt new, which is a difficult thing to accomplish for an indoor field.
Did I mention that, once every three months, the staff re-arranges the field?
I felt like teams were well balanced and fun to play on, even for a group of walk-ons. There was a whole mishmash of folks from all different experience levels and surprisingly a wide range of age groups. I was surprised to see a large group of players under 16, from the looks of it. Was this a good thing? It’s the challenge MSC must conquer, and represents the battle that airsoft on a large scale must wage.
On one hand, I think airsoft should be an adult sport. I think those who step on field must be mature enough and capable enough to handle a firearm. If you can’t do that, then you shouldn’t be airsofting.
I want my sport mature. It has to be! Airsoft is a game of honor where if the other guy doesn’t play by the rules, you can’t call “foul, ten yard penalty”. Airsoft cannot function if all parties do not agree to play by a set of rules. If the other guy isn’t mature enough to do that, then he shouldn’t be airsofting.
Can a 12 year old be mature enough to run with adults and do that? Absolutely! Is it expected of a 12 year old to do that? Absolutely not! So I would rather that it be the exception rather than the rule that 12 year olds play. But MSC allows this, with some mixed results. I gamed with a fantastic youth named Peyton. Extremely mature, honorable, and a good listener. This is a guy I would allow on my field any day of the week, and would invite. There were several other young men there who were extraordinarily polite, easy going, well mannered, and excellent airsofters. Gentlemen, my hat off to you for proving that young men can indeed perform to adult standards.
I also saw youths running around in the ready room with their replicas, pointing them at passers by and pulling the trigger. They weren’t loaded, and the refs put a very immediate stop to that, but there is my point.
I also saw a twenty something year old dude pull a trigger and fire off a round in the ready room, by accident. I was not impressed with this. Which also is proof that legal age adults can be more dangerous than their youthful companions.
These examples should not reflect poorly on MilSim City; it’s a reflection of the patrons, and also those who don’t come. An indoor field should be something to be proud of in your community, a milestone showing that airsoft has matured enough to bring a business in to host games and create a safe and sane environment to play in. If airsofters feel that they can “just go play on public land and be fine”, even if they chrono, check eye pro, and set out safety notices, they are very, very mistaken. This is an accident waiting to happen, the ticking time bomb of airsoft. It’s already starting to happen where young airsofters encounter law enforcement in negative ways as they play “soldier” in their neighborhoods. If airsofters don’t start accepting certain standards, then they will accept their own demise by public and legal ostracization. Private land at minimum should be the standard play field, with registered fields the preferred area of operation.
I applaud MilSim City’s vision; bring the new players in, young as they are, and educate them. It keeps the kids with “assault rifles” off the streets, out of parks, somewhere to play safely. It is a challenge, but I believe they can pull it off. They’ve got the right mentality, and are excited to do so. What is required on their community’s part is that the experienced players come, take the new players under their wing, and create the next generation of airsofters. This is how the sport grows and flourishes, as we have seen at Palouse Airsoft and other local organizations. MSC can’t do it alone, however. They need experienced veterans to be regular attendees at games to create this positive atmosphere.
I brought a new player to the field, first time airsofter, fresh out of Marine Corp training. His experience was related to me here,
“I’m hooked. I’m coming back next week. Do they have rentals here?”
Yes they do, my dear Andrew. MilSim City carries a full line of rental guns and rental equipment, plus sustaining supplies on site for your use. Reasonably priced, I might add. To the folks at MilSim City, I add my personal thank you for making my friend’s first time a memorable one. Kudos to y’all!
Gameplay was fast; I mean, REALLY fast. 15 minute rounds never flew by so quickly. 20 vs. 20 games were tough. Moving up was a challenge requiring a team of guys striking hard and methodically. I think 20 person teams is about the breaking point before it becomes nigh impossible. One group would finish a round, and the next group would head out on field. My applause to them for keeping the day flowing. But again, sometimes it slowed down as players were herded out of the rec room and on field.
By the time 10:15pm rolled around, I was spent. I took some time to sit down and talk with the head ref and manager, Willis. We chatted for a good few minutes about how things were going and where MilSim City wants to go in the future. From my conversation with him, I can tell he’s the right guy for the job. He’s got a level head, wants to improve the field and the game, and most importantly, he wants to improve his community and the relationship they have with the public. This, in my opinion, should be a high priority in any airsoft event organizer’s mind. Willis wants to bring in law enforcement, military, and firearms buffs to the field. He talks of adding breaching doors to the field’s already boast-worthy features. Starting May 2015, they plan on opening to concealed carry, self defense, and tactical training classes. They want to put airsoft in the public eye, in a positive way, and I believe they can do it.
In conclusion, I’m greatly impressed with Salt Lake City’s new arena. While not perfect, I believe that they have the right vision, and are in the right position to make a positive impact and fantastic addition to their community. I believe they will take my feedback to heart. For three months in, they seem to be doing well. I wish there were more experienced players from around the community attending frequently, in order to make their vision a reality. With folks like Willis and Peyton at the field, I think this place is a sure winner, the premiere CQC arena in the area.
And now for final ratings. So you know, I start with 10/10, and for every detracting incident or factor, I drop a point. Harsh, yes, but I think this is a way to show where an organization could improve, and shows where they are at. And a well ran operation or field, with little or no mistakes, earns its rating.
5/10 = Average
Needs a bit of improvement. I would hope for some kind of formalized safety briefing, and definitely a way to check for hot guns. At Palouse Airsoft and other events around the area up here, we use multi-colored zip ties, but I can understand that if I gun shoots over 350 FPS with .20g BBs, they aren’t going to allow it on field. Maybe using a zip tie around the barrel would be a good idea, to show that it’s been admin approved.
I do feel that this field felt safe to play at. I think that is very important to mention. I feel like most everyone who attended was mature and acted in a safe manner. Just a few things that happened that I have to dock points for. I have exceedingly high standards, even for myself, and not because I’m picky. I want more out of airsoft, as a sport. I reject the average ho-hum, and demand a higher end experience.
Admins did enforce safety standards when violations were reported, promptly and professionally. I congratulate them on this! Admins were very trusting of their players, which is neither bad nor good. I worry that bad things may happen as a result of this, but again, this is community dependent. Balancing safety and experience is hard, at best.
8/10 = Excellent
Wow! You guys get my bad-ass seal of approval! Dynamic, fluid gameplay with tons of ways to play the same game. Props to the staff for organizing such an awesome field of fire. I never felt once like the game was ever bogged down and boring. We got caught in a corner, pretty bad once, and I still had enough room to push through houses and try to break out. Nothing but praise here.
One thing that could be done is have a more clearly set order of games for the day, not necessarily a schedule, but something to keep the day flowing from round to round would help referees. It seemed like at one point, referees were struggling with ideas for game types for a round.
I’m grateful rounds were kept short, with time for breaks in between. Like a well run dance has fast and slow songs, a well run airsoft event has fast and slow rounds to keep people engaged for the whole of the day. This keeps your customers coming back for more. Great work, gents!
7/10 = Very Good
Excellent grasp of game, willing to enforce rules and procedure, and very professional in their demeanor and conduct. Training and experience in refereeing would help earn the next few points back, plus being able to engage and control a large group of airsofters. I felt like at times referees had a hard time herding the cat-like tendencies airsofters have. I would make sure that everyone is paying attention to the games and rules, so confusion and mistakes don’t happen on field, and keep the game flowing.
My props to the crew of volunteer referees who did a fantastic job of keeping the day interesting, and their fearless leader, Willis. Well done, boys!
8/10 = Excellent, will come again!
I’m very pleased, and very excited to see how MilSim City grows in the next year. I came back to my motel room last night a bit sore, a great bit tired, but very, very satisfied. I enjoyed their field, and got to meet some fantastic people. I was treated respectfully and honorably by my opponents. Staff was extremely friendly and did very well, despite a few, overlook-able shortcomings. I was grateful for the generous and kind way that the staff treated me; they were very accommodating and wanted to make my experience the best it could possibly be. I will be a repeat customer.
And I think that is what comes down to it. They made my experience worth it. My 12 hour drive down, field fee, and food expenses are all worth it. Really, I think MilSim City is going to be an amazing field in the next few months as they work out the kinks and add things in the works. I hear they have plans on opening up another 20,000 square feet of field.
I would also mention my friend, Andrew, again. His experience was worth it too, and now that he shares my addiction, I can be grateful to these fine men for that.
So if you’re a first timer, a second timer, or a hundred-something timer, I recommend this field. Not just for environment, because that’s great, but the group of folks you’ll find there.
Alex Riendeau is an avid airsofter whose love of the game is matched only by his desire to have a vibrant and healthy airsoft community in the region. He takes great care and goes to great lengths to insure that Palouse Airsoft is a safe, friendly, and aware group of folks, all surrounded by their love of the game.