Paintball tournament will stay in Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach will remain a stop on the way to the national paintball championships, despite two council members' questions about timing and cleanup.

The City Council voted 5 to 2 on Monday to enter into another three-year contract with the National Professional Paintball League to host its annual Surf City Open on the beach just north of the pier. Councilwomen Connie Boardman and Jill Hardy dissented.

While the council's majority supported the event, which city staff said brings about $2 million in revenue to local businesses over a three-day weekend, Boardman was concerned about the event's proximity to spring break. Hardy believed the promoter hasn't sufficiently cleaned the beach afterward as promised.

"Over the years, this is probably on the top 10 list of things that people complain to me annually about, even when I wasn't on the council," Hardy said. "And I don't think that the promises of having the beach cleaned up were ever met at an adequate level."

The paintball tournament first came to Huntington Beach in 2003, when that council approved it as a way to use the beach during the slow winter off-season, Boardman said.

However, she has noticed over the years that the event has crept closer to the busier spring months. Community Services Director Janeen Laudenback told the council that the promoter intentionally scheduled this year's tournament to coincide with spring break.

The Surf City Open will be held April 4 to 6 this year. Area high schools are on spring break from April 14 to 18, but other districts in Southern California have spring break closer to the tournament time.

"I'm having a hard time supporting it when it's purposely overlapping with spring break," Boardman said. "Knowing what our staffing levels are in the Police Department and knowing how we struggled through the recession with having adequate staffing levels downtown during large events, I'm very hesitant to go ahead and approve a huge event that is going to attract thousands of people down at the beach along with spring break visitors."

Laudenback said the promoters estimated that last year's event — from April 12 to 14 — had about 1,800 participants and about 36,000 spectators — roughly less than a third the attendance of the U.S. Open of Surfing.

A majority of the council said the paintball crowd is different from the one that caused the downtown area disturbance last July after the surfing competition.

"It doesn't bring in people that are going to cause trouble downtown," Councilman Joe Carchio said. "The hotels are completely sold out.… This is very good event and it brings in solid people into the community."

Councilman Joe Shaw agreed, adding that the promoter and the city do a good job at cleaning the beach went the event is finished.

"I see little paintballs at the beach too, but I have not seen such a widespread amount that it would be something that I would worry about," he said. "I think they do a good job at cleaning it up. And things just get left behind at the beach no matter what we're doing there.

"There's always going to be some problems, but I think this is a great event for the city."

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