ROCKVILLE – It’s a bummer say local airsoft enthusiasts.
Rockville’s Tactical Airsoft Arena (TAA), which for seven years has served as a place for both weekend fun and tactical training, will close on Aug. 17.
Jong Cha, TAA’s owner, said that rent has increased and profits have stayed relatively flat, but the main reason he is closing TAA is to spend more time with his family.
“Rent is constantly going up, that’s not unusual,” Cha said. “It’s more that I haven’t really hung out with my family on weekends the last seven years. I wasn’t intending to be here all the time when I started.”
TAA has a 3,600 square foot indoor arena with numerous plywood rooms that are rearranged a few times a year, according to TAA’s website. TAA also has a shop that offers rentals, sells airsoft equipment and provides repair or upgrade work on airsoft guns. The airsoft guns used at TAA are replicas of real firearms that shoot small plastic BBs at up to 300 feet per second.
Players are usually put in teams to compete against each other in a number of objective-based games such as capture the flag, king of the hill and domination. Hits are based on the honor system and players that are hit go to their team’s spawn room for a short time before returning to the game.
The admission fees at TAA are subject to a 10 percent entertainment tax while equipment and airsoft guns are covered by normal sales tax. TAA’s shop competes with online airsoft sales that are not subject to sales tax by keeping prices similar or lower than those online, according to Cha.
“It affects people’s behavior. If someone can avoid paying a tax, they will do that. Everyone in Maryland is doing the same thing.” Cha said. “If you are going to make a larger purchase like a really expensive gun it’s worth it to drive to Delaware, there is an airsoft shop there and they don’t have tax.”
James Wu, who has played airsoft for close to six years and been a technician at TAA since 2010, said that attendance at TAA had increased to “a ridiculous level” of 60 players on Friday and Saturday nights and began to steadily decrease in 2012. Attendance of 20 to 30 players a night became common and was an “acceptable level” for the space at TAA, according to Wu.
TAA is one of a few places in Maryland that does repair and upgrade work on airsoft guns, according to Wu.
“We have seen a decrease in the number of guns dropped off for upgrades and repairs,” Wu said. “This is likely because people became more interested in performing these tasks themselves and because of a decrease in market price for upgrade and replacement parts. Cheaper parts means mistakes are less costly and there is less of a need to get repairs and upgrades done right the first time around.”
Cha said he has spoken with people who have shown interest in running a similar airsoft arena in the space that currently houses TAA. Cha did not have details on how long it would take for an airsoft arena to open for business if someone decides to continue using the space.
When TAA opened it “filled a big hole,” according to Cha, since there were no similar airsoft fields in the area. There are several outdoor fields outside Montgomery County that host airsoft games and an indoor arena in Anne Arundel County. At least one of the outdoor fields is primarily used for paintball and only has airsoft games once a week.
“It’s a bummer,” John Blick, who has been playing at TAA for around a year, said about the closing. “[TAA] is only 20 minutes away from me and the next nearest field is an hour away.”