Paintballing the Town Red (or Blue or Green) in Bonfield
In 1995, Dustin Douglas earned a credit in his high school business class by creating an imaginary paintball field project called Pyramid Paintball. In 2007, he made his dream a reality by opening a 130-acre paintball field in the township of Bonfield. With so much land to work with, the now real Pyramid Paintball supports two of the most popular game genres, bushball and speedball. Bushball is played in a natural forest where players use the trees and natural features for cover. Speedball is played in an open field with a maze of inflatable man-made objects (called bunkers) used as both obstacles and cover.
Over the years, Dustin’s family and friends have pitched in every year to help him develop the site so that it now offers a rental shop, covered picnic area, snack bar, plus four different bushball fields and one speedball field. “We have numerous derelict cars and trucks strewn across our bushball fields, some of them turned over as if they had been blown up. We also have two plane crashes, five bases and one surface-to-air missile prop. We have plans to add more,” Dustin says. His speedball field sports a labyrinth of inflatable bunkers and a wooden castle wall at one end. “Regular speedball goes on during the day and most days we finish with a Castle Wall attack and defend game.”
The park attracts both seasoned paintball enthusiasts who arrive with their own equipment and first timers who have never fired a paintball gun in their lives. “We can host quite a few walk-on players so advance notice is not needed. We have around 100 rentals available and we usually have around 25 walk-on players a day depending on weather and time of year. Our field and equipment rental prices also compare very favourably to similar paintball operations in southern Ontario.”
Raymond Brand, is a paintball enthusiast who has been a regular at Pyramid from almost its opening day. “There’s a great community here,” Raymond says “If you are new, the regulars will welcome you and help you figure out your gear. People of all ages and physiques can play. It’s a great, non-threatening environment.”
One of Pyramid Paintball’s biggest events is an annual non-stop scenario game called Unheard of War. “There are missions and objectives players have to complete while under fire. There are puzzles/encryptions to solve, and they usually lead to an overall puzzle. We get players from Kapuskasing, Thunder Bay, Kirkland Lake, Temiskaming Shores, Sudbury, Toronto, Chelmsford and elsewhere,” says Dustin. A big part of the weekend’s proceeds go to The Bonfield Food Bank.
The playing season is every Saturday from early spring to late fall. Besides regular Saturday games, Pyramid will open its field on Sundays for special events like birthday celebrations, anniversaries and bachelor parties. Participants can bring their own refreshments or buy reasonably priced hot food, cold drinks and desserts at “Ma and Pat Kettle’s”, an on-site barbecue stand operated by Dustin’s Father. There are change rooms and day lockers for visitors to secure their valuables. Some players like to show up dressed in full Rambo camouflage but any weather appropriate, loose fitting clothes you don’t mind getting dirty are suitable for game play. Yes, the dye in the paintballs is non-toxic and water soluble. It is also advisable to bring bug repellant, especially in the spring and early summer.
Out of town visitors can easily find after hours meals and overnight accommodation in North Bay, Bonfield or Mattawa but most tourists come to this area intent on enjoying Northeastern Ontario’s natural wilderness beauty. Just fifteen minutes from Pyramid Paintball is the Talon Lake Campground and Marina. Here weary paintballers can pitch tents, hook up trailers or even rent fully equipped housekeeping cottages on the shore of historic Talon Lake. During the Unheard of War weekend, the campground offers free tent sites to Pyramid players if they notify Dustin in advance.
Ironically, Dustin has become a victim of his own success. He opened his business to save money playing paintball. Now he rarely gets to play paintball himself. “Now I’m busy trying to make sure everyone is having a good time and everything is running as smooth as possible. My enjoyment now is hearing the buzz of excitement after a group finishes a game and everyone is trying to talk at the same time about how awesome it was.”
Pyramid Paintball is just a twenty minute drive east along Highway 17 from North Bay. Watch for a large black and yellow Pyramid Paintball banner on a metal swing-out gate. To find out more info about directions, prices and coming events, visit Pyramid’s website here.