BRIDGEWATER - Seth Potter didn't let the death of a good friend and colleague stop the tradition of paintball in Bridgewater.
Potter, a Bridgwater native, is in his sixth year of owning and running Splat Attack Paintball. But it was through "unfortunate circumstances" that he became the new owner of the paintball field located between Bridgwater and Salem.
It was after Bruce Rinehart, who had started Splat Attack more than 20 years ago, died suddenly in 2011 from a heart attack. Hurt and shocked by the death of a longtime family friend, Potter couldn't let Rinehart's paintball business disappear, so he took over.
"I didn't have a full plan coming out of college as far as I wanted to do. It was unfortunate circumstances I fell into the businesses, but I love every day of it," Potter said.
Potter's love for the sport began when he was approximately 10 years old. He would spend his free time playing paintball at Splat Attack until he started high school. It was then that Rinehart, who was a friend of Potter's dad, asked him to help out at the field, working with maintenance, refereeing and watching over groups.
Potter graduated from high school and left to attend South Dakota State University in Brookings. He returned home and now helps his dad farm, but continues to do what he loves: paintball.
Business booms in summer season
Stretching across 26 acres, Splat Attack is split into five courses.
One field features hills and trenches while another is filled with old trailer homes. But each course is unique, with some set up as a concept-type field, Potter said, and are more high-paced for more advanced paintball competitors, such as Potter.
In his first two years of owning Splat Attack, Potter also played competitively for an Omaha-based team. But owning a business along with constantly traveling for competitive paintball tournaments proved to be too much.
Potter quit to take on Splat Attack full time in his third year of owning the business, and it "jumped in sales" in year four and five, and continues this summer.
Summer is always the busiest time, Potter said, with groups taking over the course nearly every Saturday.
Potter has enough equipment for roughly 75 people, including guns and masks. Each group starts off with 500 paintballs, playing between three and four hours.
With the help of teenagers from Bridgewater and Sioux Falls, Potter has referees watching over each group to ensure all paintballers are following the rules.
'An ice breaker' sport
Potter has seen people anywhere from 10 to 60 years old stop by his courses, but it still surprises him how far people will travel for a few hours of fun.
People from Sioux Falls, Mitchell, Madison, Brookings, Yankton and even Sioux City, Iowa, have made their way to Bridgewater.
"You can play it in so many ways, as far as it being completely recreational sport whether it involves bachelor parties, youth groups, church groups, work parties - it's just an ice breaker for a sport for so many people," Potter said.
Splat Attack is open all year round, but typically slows down in winter time. And if it gets too cold, the paintballs can freeze, becoming dangerous for competitors.
And while owning Splat Attack is a chance for Potter to continue what Rinehart started 21 years ago, he also enjoys watching others have fun with paintball.
"It's a little bit competitive, and with all video games these days, too, we're bringing that to real life ... " Potter said. "Being able to shoot an object at your friend and not hurt them badly is also something fun people always bring up, too."