Like many recreational and professional paintball players residing in New Jersey’s northern urban cities, Raymond Ocasio III grew tired of driving hours away from Newark to get to the nearest shooting arena in South Jersey or Pennsylvania.
That’s why he came up with a plan to open the region’s first indoor paintball and multilevel laser tag facility with local paintball competitor Heriberto Soto — and with demand already high, the business partners sense it will be a success.
“A lot of people I used to play paintball with growing up have stopped going because of their jobs and families. But I think if we bring paintball right into their neighborhood, they’ll come back to the sport and more people — especially kids — will want to start playing it,” Ocasio said. “There’s also not a lot of things to do in terms of kids’ events and birthday parties in this area, so I think people will come even if it’s not just for the paintball and laser tag.”
After Ocasio and Soto were turned down by several lenders to secure space for Inferno Limits Paintball and Laser Tag, a quick Google search of “small-business loans” turned up the Newark office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, which connected them to the economic development loan fund of the Brick City Development Corp. and the Newark Urban Enterprise Zone.
With a $325,000 loan from that fund, the pair obtained a five-year lease on a 30,000-square-foot warehouse in the Ironbound, which they are retrofitting to house a 15,000-square-foot paintball arena; a 7,500-square-foot laser tag range; 45 arcade machines; and a VIP room for corporate events, team-building programs and birthday parties.
Though Hurricane Sandy pushed the facility’s launch date to February, Ocasio said several local corporations plan to book events when it opens, including PNC Bank and Comcast, where he works as a full-time communications technician and “already goes paintballing every year with the staff.”
Aside from attracting short-term events, Ocasio said he’s working with another paintball group in South Jersey to bring weekend-long national and regional paintball tournaments to Inferno Limits, which can accommodate up to 850 people at a time. In an e-mail, Soto said those tournaments will make the company “a strong business partner in Newark,” since competitors “will almost certainly visit other Newark businesses, especially hospitality entities and food and beverage entities … (and) generate more revenue for many other businesses within the city.”
“This will be an incredible amenity in the East Ward, driving in new customers to support local businesses while creating a family-friendly destination,” Soto said.
Before construction on the venue is completed, Ocasio said he will recruit local workers to fill nearly 20 positions — not including necessary security jobs — as well as market the business through partnerships with local schools like the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Essex County Vocational Technical High School, which is Soto’s alma mater.
“This project is unusual for an urban community, but from what I can tell, the city is excited about it,” Ocasio said. “They’re not seeing this as a negative; they’re seeing it as a positive … and our hope is this will give something back to them.”