Henry “Hank” Emery started Preston County Paintball because he loves the pastime, and he wants you to come try it out and fall in love, too.
PCPB has 72 acres of play area with 15 fields mapped out over 18-20 acres, Hank said. The field is on Herring Road in Preston County, about 45 minutes from downtown Morgantown.
“It’s as close to natural woods ball as I can get it. I try to use nature, instead of buildings and stuff like that,” Emery said. “There’s a lot of wood piles on this property that are structured to hide behind. There’s a lot of huge rock on this property; that’s structure to hide behind.”
One field, called Bear’s Den, has a rock the size of a house in it. None of the fields are level or square, and nature is used to its fullest. Another field, which doesn’t really have a name yet, though Hank said he might start calling it The Thicket, is filled with greenbrier thickets for cover — more than enough to break up a paintball.
Hank said he’s constantly switching the fields up, changing their boundaries and size.
“I don’t play the same fields all the time. Because I got to keep it interesting. You know, even with a little amount of players that I have that come I still got to keep it interesting,” Emery said. “So fields change year-to-year.”
Hank started playing paintball in Florida 20 years ago. His son bought a $5 marker from a kid down the street who was moving to Massachusetts. Hanked fixed it for him, then found local groups to start playing.
A Prestonian by birth, Emery said the hunting in Florida is terrible, but there’s a lot of paintball and he grew to love it.
When he moved back to West Virginia in 2015, about the closest place to play paintball was Pittsburgh. He was able to work something out with the landowner and “now I got a paintball field up here.”
Zachary Young, 21, president of the West Virginia University Paintball Club, started playing paintball about 10 years ago in his home state of New Jersey. He met Emery and started coming to PCPB through the club.
“We love coming here, you know, it’s not too far away from Morgantown,” Young said. “It’s really nice being able to come out here on Saturday or Sunday, not too far of a drive. And come out here with the team, get some practice.”
While PCPB is a business, it’s not all about the income, Emery said.
“For me, this is a business. But it’s not all about making money. If I was doing this just to make money, I wouldn’t do it because for me, the location, the amount of people that flow through, and the amount of work that I do, if you were an accountant, you’d say ‘dude, you’re crazy,’ ” he said. “… I’m doing something I love.”
PCPB has free play on Sundays and is available for groups any time by appointment by calling 772-360-7367. Hank said he has 40 sets of rental gear and has hosted birthday parties, bachelor parties, a softball team, and more.
“If you got a group of four that want to come out and play paintball, I’ll be here for you,” he said.
Emery said his rental prices are cheaper than average because “that’s my whole gig is encouraging people to play.” For $30, a customer gets a paint marker, a bag of paint with 500 paintballs, facemask, and chest guard. Additional bags of paint are $15, and only paint purchased at PCPB can be used.
The only thing more important than fun when playing paintball is safety, he said.
“I probably can’t say safety enough. It’s about being safe,” he said. “Having a referee that pays attention to what the heck’s going on and keeping people safe.” In six years, knock on wood, nobody’s ever been hurt here. My insurance company likes it that way, too.”
While paintball is a physical activity it’s not just a young man’s game, Emery, 62, said.
“I give these young guys the devil. It’s not a young guys’ game. It’s all in how you play it. You don’t have to run fast. You just got to be able to get there,” he said.
Emery described his play style as a flanker, preferring to work the edges to get his favorite shot — right in the center of someone’s back.
Paul Farrell, 56, said he started playing paintball with his friends in the service in 1998. He said he loves the camaraderie and friendship the sport has and he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“It’s a blast. I mean, you have so much fun up here. And that’s what it’s all about. Doesn’t matter how good you are or anything. Just have fun,” Farrell said.
Farrell said he likes to lay a lot of suppressive fire so other teammates can move up, often shooting a case of paint or a little more in a day.
Farrell plays as much as he can and any time Emery needs a hand with something, he’s there to help grow the sport and PCPB.
“It’s incredible what (Hank) offers the community and everything you know,” Farrell said. “And I’d like to really see it take off and everything.”