Nick Morrione came to Connecticut in 1996 to sell boat parts. Two years later, he decided to open Hogan’s Alley—a paintball supply depot flanked by a set of game fields. After 13 years in business, he’s amazed at how his fields, the technology, and the game itself have changed.
“Why did I open Hogan’s Alley?” Morrione asks. “Well, I was tired of commuting to Massachusetts to play paintball.”
He laughs about it now, referring to his days as a store manager at West Marine, a boating supply chain, in the mid-1990s, but Hogan’s Alley at 998 N. Colony Rd. has turned into one of Connecticut’s most successful paintball facilities since then. There have been a series of closings recently—four in the past year alone—but Morrione’s business has remained strong. It’s one of only three in the state and sports the only fields that cater to the modern game.
Morrione started playing paintball as a 17-year-old high school student in Redding, MA. Back then, most of the markers (i.e. paintball guns) were pump-action—you had to manually re-cock them each time you pulled the trigger, much like a shotgun. Semi-automatic technology—one ball fired per trigger pull, without the need to re-cock—was just starting to come out.
The games themselves were a free-for-all, Morrione says. Two teams of 50 or 100 players—however many showed up—would line up on each end of a 20-acre field and have at it. Chaos.
“It was tough even knowing who was on your team sometimes,” he recalls.
“I remember one time walking around for 20 minutes without seeing anyone from either team and wondering what was going on.”
Now, Morrione caters to a different type of paintball. It’s a smaller, more strategy based game. Hogan’s Alley maintains a stock of electronic markers with adjustable firing rates and a set of six fields that combine to encompass less space than a single old one would have.
“It’s more organized, spectator-friendly, more referees now,” he says, “and the technology has just changed things completely.”
No matter how fast you actually pull the trigger, electronic markers can be programmed to fire at different rates than a standard pump, semi-automatic, or automatic one. Morrione will adjust the frequencies based on the skill level of the players. Generally speaking, better players equal more shots.
“We lower the rate of fire to teach fundamentals,” he says.
“People who’ve never played before can get afraid. They make this plan, ‘You go here, I’ll go here, you go here and shoot,’ then hear the pellets whizzing by their head and they just curl up in a ball.”
People come from all over, so experience levels vary, but Morrione says that roughly seventy percent of Hogan’s Alley players are renters, meaning they only play once or twice a year. With that type of a crowd, most games employ the low rate of fire rules. Usually the markers are set to max out at one ball every three seconds.
For the more advanced players, Hogan’s Alley offers two airball fields. Airball is a form of paintball that’s played on a field of inflatable obstacles, or bunkers. The bunkers are placed according to specs handed down from Sup’Airball, the sport’s national governing body, which then holds tournaments on fields with the same layout as the one assembled at local venues.
Like the 100 yards of a football field, or the 60 feet, 6 inches between the pitcher’s mound and home plate, it’s a way of standardizing the playing field in paintball.
“It makes us more like a sport,” Morrione says. “And less like a bunch idiots running around in the woods.”
Hogan’s Alley is open to the experts and first-timers alike for play on weekends year-round. Full day rental packages start at $40 with season’s passes and private party sessions also available.