Ryan Rinebold’s job with Flashpoint Outdoor Laser Tag is more complicated than handing out laser guns and sending players into battle.
When he leads a group through a team-elimination game, Rinebold acts as coach, counselor and cheerleader to make sure that all customers leave happy.
“It’s a lot of “cat wrangling, especially with the younger kids,” he said.
Rinebold describes his role in Flashpoint as being the “boots on the ground.” Since his mother, Janet Coombs opened Flashpoint six years ago, the business has been a family enterprise. Coombs is the administrator, delegator and self-described “comic relief.” Her daughters are also involved, with Liht McBroom and her husband, Robert, pitching in when needed and Brett Ferrington taking care of advertising, mostly through the website and other social media accounts. Coombs’ fiance, Rick Lyons, also does his part through equipment maintenance and other support.
Flashpoint doesn’t have an indoor range, staging all its events outdoors. The company is entering its second summer of leasing a parcel northeast of Whitefish owned by Stoltze Land & Lumber Co. as a home base. There are no visible indications that a business occupies the site, partly because Coombs is serious about keeping the property pristine.
“There’s no cans, no food and we pack it in and pack it out,” she said. “I keep everything straight.”
A natural landscape also helps with her goal of providing a nature-based experience.
“I wanted something for tourists to come here and say ‘this is Montana, we’re shooting guns in the forest,’” Coombs said. “I don’t have props, there are no blowups, no tires. I wanted it to be the real thing.”
Flashpoint is also a mobile business, with Coombs and Rinebold transporting their inventory of 34 laser-tag guns anywhere a customer asks. They will set up obstacles and other features to enhance the game if necessary. They also regularly stage events at Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork as an activity for guests.
Coombs said a couple in their 80s who regularly stay at the lodge have become avid laser-tag players. They’re representative of how people of all ages and personalities will take to the game given the opportunity, Coombs said.
“People who say ‘I’m not good at anything,’ are often the ones who really get in there,” she said. “It gives everyone a chance. It’s for introverts and extroverts.”
“We’ll have grandparents who watch the kids and we can tease them into playing,” Rinebold said. “By round two, we’ll have grumpy curmudgeons running around having a good old time.”
Flashpoint often runs games for school and church groups, bachelor and bachelorette parties, birthday parties and family reunions. They operate year-round and Rinebold once hosted a party in below-zero weather, with participants wearing white jumpsuits as camouflage in the snow-covered environment.
They have hosted groups of up to 80, and Coombs said that if just a few people want to play but need more opponents, she has friends she can call into service to fill out team rosters.
Groups who hire Flashpoint to help them stage outdoor laser-gun events are generally split into two teams and sent to opposite ends of the playing field. The laser warriors then aim to hit their opponents with the invisible laser beams and the guns register if they’ve been shot and who made the contact. Players also wear hats that light up after a successful hit.
Each shooter gets 30 lives in the standard two-hour game, but there’s no knowing how long they’ll stay in the mix.
“Games can last from 10 minutes to an hour, it depends on the group,” Rinebold said. “We’ll run through as many games as they can in two hours.”
Flashpoint has learned that a successful game is one in which all competitors leave happy, from the most eagle-eyed shooters to those who are taken out quickly. Coombs and Rinebold try to keep the mood light in the “graveyard,” the area where competitors who’ve been eliminated hang out until the next game commences. Rambo, the laser-tag dog, is a welcome distraction as he sidles up to waiting players for a pat or a game of fetch.
No matter what their level of success, Rinebold said, chances are that players won’t leave in the same condition they arrived.
“Our website stresses wearing old clothes, shoes, pants,” he said “A lot of time tourists don’t want to get dirty, but by the end, they’re tumbling and rolling around in the woods, not caring.”
For more information, visit http://flashpointlasertag.com/
Business reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.