Photo: Adobe Stock

Town officials are looking at entering into an agreement with Cousins Paintball that will allow the company to operate its paintball facility on approximately 14 to 16 acres of land inside the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

The company would pay the town $5,000 per month for 11 months of operation — it would not operate in January due to the shotgun hunting season for deer, when the town grants permission to licensed hunters to hunt for deer on the EPCAL site.

The precise location of paintball facility is yet to be determined, but it will be within lot number two on the 2019 eight-lot subdivision map that gained preliminary approval from the Riverhead Planning Board in June 2019. Lot number two is one of five lots that will be retained by the Town of Riverhead pursuant to its contract of sale with Calverton Aviation and Technology.

Lot number two, comprising approximately 99 acres, includes 62 acres of dedicated parkland, known as Veterans Memorial Park. However, the entirety of the lot must remain in recreational use because that was how it was designated for purposes of the environmental review done for the site, Deputy Town Attorney Annmarie Prudenti told the Town Board during its work session Thursday.

Cousins Paintball owner Dean Del Prete with samples of netting and paintballs at the Jan. 26 Town Board work session. Photo: Alek Lewis

Cousins Paintball owner Dean Del Prete told the board he is currently operating at a temporary location on Edwards Avenue and will soon be displaced by the development of a commercial solar energy facility on the site. Del Prete was displaced from another rented site to the south, where he operated L.I. Sports Park, when the site was sold to a different solar energy company for development with a solar facility.

The town would enter into a license agreement with Cousins Paintball that the town could revoke at will, Prudenti said. Some portion of the property proposed to be licensed, which Prudenti estimated would be six to eight acres south of the Isaac Dog Park, will be within the boundaries of the 62-acre town park.

Del Prete said he will place special paintball netting around the perimeter of the entire area where paintball activities will take place. It is specially made netting manufactured to sustain the force of paintballs, which are fired from paintball guns, Del Prete said. It will be a minimum of 12 feet high, and as much as 16 feet high in some places, he said.

Del Prete said Cousins Paintball operates five locations and has been in business for 25 years. “We don’t have injuries,” he said. “We’re kind of pros at this.” Paintball as a sport is “super-safe,” with fewer injuries than skiing and many other sports, Del Prete said.

The paintballs are biodegradable and the materials used to make them are classified as non-hazardous under federal regulations.

Del Prete provided the town with a waiver and release of liability form that all paintball players must sign. He had already met with Assistant Town Engineer Ken Testa and Parks and Recreation Superintendent Ray Coyne to discuss location and layout, prior to the work session, Prudenti said.

Council Member Bob Kern brought the idea to the table. He said the town had a chance to earn revenue that would help pay for the cost of electricity for the ice rink. The town, in an agreement with Peconic Hockey Foundation, agreed to pay up to $150,000 for electricity to operate the rink.

The arrangement with Cousins Paintball would be “basically utilizing land that Riverhead has. There’s a section of that park that probably hasn’t been used for 200 years,” Kern said. “So I asked him (Del Prete) if he would be interested in doing a license agreement with the town and operate his paintball there. Knowing Dean and knowing what he’s done on his other property, doing a lot of community events — he’s a very community-involved guy. And I put it together with Annmarie and Greg and that’s why we’re here,” Kern said.

Town Board members were receptive to the idea.

“It’s great to see a lot of activities being worked on at that location and we just gotta get them moving. There’s a lot of work to be done, but this is all good stuff,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said via telephone.

If the board approves the proposed license agreement Cousins Paintball will be the second private entity the town will have agreed to allow to operate in the park. The Town Board approved an agreement with the nonprofit Peconic Hockey Foundation either agreed to allow to operate in October.

Following that approval, later that month, Kern brought the CEO of Conscience Bay Group, Peter Bellard of Setauket, to the Town Board with a proposal to build three multipurpose indoor athletic buildings and two outdoor multipurpose fields on town parkland. The supervisor told Bellard he had to present his plan to the town’s recreation advisory committee and consult further with Coyne before the board would move the proposal forward.

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