In the 1970s, CowTown Range was home to Hollywood stuntman Ron Nix. Since then, films like 1994’s “Dead Man” with Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt’s 2014 flick “Fury” were shot at the now-established shooting and paintball range in northern Peoria.
“(Nix) helped to build the Western town,” says Rick Shaw, the CowTown general manager. “There were a couple hundred movies filmed over the years here.”
Shaw’s father purchased CowTown in 1994, and Shaw has managed it since 2016.
Two floods destroyed CowTown’s paintball fields over the last four years and few structures were left standing, he says.
This gave CowTown the opportunity to rebuild new layouts for paintball matches. It reopened for its year-round paintball facility earlier this year with three new paintball fields.
“We spent all of last summer building the fields, literally from the ground up,” says Sandy Phillip, the paintball manager.
The largest field has a maze in the center, another is military style with bunkers, and the most popular field, Phillip says, is the CowTown field.
“The CowTown field is all Western style, with saloons and jails, and has an old-fashioned wagon in the middle of it,” Phillip says.
Phillip attributes the CowTown field’s popularity to the Western vibes and the size of the field. Fewer players are allowed to compete on the CowTown field, so it’s easier for players to spread out and climb on top of structures to shoot their opponents.
Players can participate in matches like Capture the Flag, 3-on-3 tournaments and the President’s Challenge, where players must act as secret agents to safely get the president across the field.
Depending on the field size, there can be anywhere between three to five referees per match, Phillip says. There is a referee at the main entrance gate and at least one referee for each team.
Phillip says paintball at CowTown Range is fun for the whole family. The range has special equipment for younger players.
“We have Splatmaster shotguns that are meant for children ages 6 to 9,” Phillip says. “They are not made with compressed air. They are spring loaded, so it doesn’t hurt as much when you’re hit.”
Players younger than age 18 need a parent or guardian signature on their waiver, Phillip says. Every player is required to sign a waiver, which is good for a year and available to complete online at CowTown’s website.
The range has equipment available to rent, but players are allowed to bring their own gear, too. Phillip says registration is not required, but groups of 10 or more players planning to visit should call ahead so the range can accommodate the group.
To beat the summer heat, paintball games are held in the mornings and under the stars at night.
10402 W. Carefree Highway, Peoria, 480.819.2000, cowtownrange.com