Marital Status: Married to Paula 19 years
Children: Macy, 16, and “Bubba”, 14
Vehicle: ’96 Chevy Pickup
Music: AC/DC, Motorhead, Colt Ford
Billy Smith came on the paintball scene in a big way in 2004 with his Free Finale, which offered free entry, free camping, and extremely reasonable paint pricing for players. The scheduling of the event was seen as a direct challenge to Wayne Dollack, an allegation that Smith has never denied. His field, Low Country Paintball has hosts several scenario events a year, and in 2008 Smith along with game writer/coordinator “Georgia” Joe Hamilton produced 3 games at Camp Blanding’s MOUT Facility. LCP also played host for 4 SPPL Events to include the 2008 SPPL Championships being held at his field.
In person, the first thing you notice about Smith is that he’s a high-energy individual. At The Free FInale, he was constantly moving, dealing with last minute health problems with his brother Dale, talking to players, answering their questions and generally making himself available to everyone. He’s a consummate showman, using a sound system and 12 foot stage to ensure that everyone can see and hear him when giving game briefings, giving away prizes or introducing Generals for his games.
We caught up with Billy after the 2008 Free Finale, and picked his brain for the root of his success.
Dale Ford: Let’s start with some basic stuff…Tell us a little about yourself.
Billy Smith: Well, I come from a small one red light town in Ga. Been married to the same woman, sometimes not sure how, for 19 years. I have two wonderful children. A daughter who is named Macy who loves the tourney side of paintball and a son nick named “Bubba” , yes we have a Bubba in the family, who loves to play scenarios and fish. He says fish fear him. I live in a double wide mobile home and drive a 96 chevy pickup truck. My wife is self employed at her own convenience store. I try to live life to the fullest each and every day.
Dale Ford: How did you get your start as a paintball player?
Billy Smith: I guess like most people my age, we did exactly what our mothers told us not to do when growing up and played war with BB guns. I am damn lucky not to have had my eye shot out! It was not until the late eighties that I actually found out about paintball, I happened across a paintball magazine article in the breakroom where I worked. Of course, being an avid outdoorsman, growing up in south Ga huntin’ and fishin’, paintball was right up my alley as an adult. I remember thinking ‘What better animal to hunt than another person with a paintball gun!?!?’ I have been hooked ever since. Hell, I don’t even hunt critters anymore, just ain’t as fun once you play paintball.
D: What have you done as a player in either (or both) the Tournament and Scenario world?
B: Well as a tournament player, I tried. I just did not have the time or the money it was gonna take me to get to where I wanted. I have played in tourny’s all across the south, nothing big, just local fun. I did play in the first Spyder Cup. I actually thought my team had a chance at those Mustangs, didn’t happen. Had a blast trying though. I think the best part was the trip to Pa, My team and I bought an RV, little brother Dale drove us and we had a ball. I also played in the 2006 SPPL finals in Ok, took the LCP Short Bus out there. You should see the look on peoples faces when they pass you and your team is licking the windows… HILARIOUS!
I have also played in scenarios all over from Texas to the Carolinas and yes, Wayne’s World in Ocala. PB Charleston is a great field in Charleston SC, My friend Ben Torricelli has put on a few there and you know with MPP being there, it’s gotta be good! I’ve won quite a few MVP as with my team winning MVT but mainly, I play the scenarios to just have fun. I get to go out of town with my buddies and kids, meet up with buddies and act like a kid myself all weekend. Fun, Fun Fun.
D: You are known in the South for doing fundraisers and helping people, can you elaborate?
B: LCP has put on a few fund raiser events in the past few years. We helped a little girl named Eryana last year to help her single mother to pay her hospitable bills and helped her get the transportation she needed to get back and forth to Augusta Ga for her treatment. Eryana passed away last year but LCP and its players were glad to be there when we could. We also helped produce a game at Camp Blanding this past year for a Jacksonville based little girl named Juliana Wetmore. Quite a few funds were raised for her also. Now to say that LCP did these fund raisers would be incorrect. We were just the portal to make it happen. The players that attended the events and donated their time and money for the needful people are the real heroes.
D: At what point did you decide you wanted to get into the business side of paintball?
B: Easy answer, I enjoyed playing so much that the only way I could satisfy my addiction was to own a field! That way I could be involved with paintball all the time. I love this sport!
D: Who do you look up to business wise?
B: Vincent Kennedy McMahon, yes the wrestling promoter. Why, because he came from a small background and made it big HIS way. There is no cost to high for Vince to success. No sacrifice too big. Give it all you got or go home.
D: How did you come up with your strategy for engaging the market in South Georgia?
B: by listening. Players and people will reveal their desires if you just listen.
D: Has LCP been impacted at all by the recent downturn in the business side of Paintball?
B: Not at all. LCP serves an outstanding weekend player base. LCP is open seven days a week. We have Ft Stewart located about 20 minutes from us and the military uses LCP quite a bit for training during the week. We also serve corporate parties, church groups and of course, birthday parties. I really do not feel the downturn is in the local player base as much as in scenarios and tournaments. In my opinion the industry is bringing it upon themselves. Think about it, where does industry advertise? In paintball magazines! Well that is kinda redundant. I am not saying they shouldn’t but why are they not advertising elsewhere? Advertisement should be placed in a number of different venues, NEW players is what makes this sport grow. Budweiser doesn’t advertise to alcoholics, they are already drinkers! They advertise for the cool superbowl parties and such. They make it look cool to the masses that with Budweiser, you can be a cool partier too. We should see ads for paintball in venues like Woman’s World. Who do you think pays for the birthday party for little Johnny or hunting magazines so the hunter can still spend time doing what he like, even in the off season. Unless paintball steadily refreshes it’s player base, how can one expect it to grow. My favorite is the semi trailer with the big shot tourney players on the side either blasting or getting blasted. How many mothers on the interstate that see that say ‘Wow, My family and I should go try that’, ain’t happening! It Scares the hell out of Moms! How come they do not put a nice family out playing paintball or a pic of little Johnny or Susie having a good time playing? You want to attract new players? Make it look friendly to the Moms.
D: What do you think should be done to bring the game out of the slump it’s currently in?
B: New players, again advertise to get new players.
D: Paintball, especially scenario paintball is played and seen differently depending on where you are in the US. How do you see it here in the Southeast?
B: A bunch of in-your-face-type players who will drill the hell out of one another on the field and be best of buddies off. Southeast=Total Aggression!
D: A lot of pundits and commentators characterized the Free Finale as a ‘Middle Finger’ to Wayne Dollack, who’s acknowledged as the grandfather of modern scenario play. Was this an intentional move on your part?
B: Once upon a time, yes. Now the finale has a life of its own, It will continue as long as the players ask me to do it. To continue on this question though, I am by no means saying ‘do not go to Waynes’ Wayne puts on one hell of a show too and the man deserves his respect for what he has done. I have known Wayne for many years, hell, he has produced games at LCP many years ago! The man has put in his time. Go check out one of Vipers games, I have never been to one of his games but I hear he does an awesome job. I have respect for all producers of this game and what they do. We just do it differently here at LCP.
D: In addition to running LCP, you’re also a DraXxus Paint distributor. How has this helped you as you move forward with your business?
B: What I do as far as distribution is use my buying power to help the smaller fields get a foothold. Most new fields can not afford to buy several skids at a time to get a price break, that’s where I try to help. I sell paint all through Ga, Fla and the Carolinas.
D: What’s on your schedule for 2009?
B: We are constantly trying new formats and games and this year is no different. We are doing a game in May that will only be for 21 and older, yes a party is involved. Paintclub21.com is the site for that game. Is it a scenario? No. Is it a Big Game? No. Will it be a whole lot of fun? Well Hell Yeah!
D: Any parting words or thoughts?
B: Just enjoy life! Here is one of my favorite quotes, I do not know who it s by, but I like it. ‘Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, cocktail in one hand, and your body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, looking like Keith Richards on a bad day, screaming “YEE-HAA THAT WAS ONE HELL OF A RIDE!!!!!!!!!”