Water droplets fell from the trees as the red team discussed its strategy.
“Who’s the fastest runner?” someone yelled. “Are you positioned right? I’m gonna cover you,” someone else said.
After a few minutes, the referee yelled, “Go, go, go!”
A few moments of silence passed, then the woods filled with the automated sound effects of gun shots as the two teams tried to capture each other’s flag. After about 15 minutes, the referee declared the game over.
The red team was defeated miserably, but in spite of the loss, the players had no marks, welts or bruises indicating where they were shot.
The reason: They were playing laser tag. These players, as well as their opponents, were some of the first to play at M2 Battlesports’ new location at the Easton Newberry Sports Complex at 24880 NW 16th Ave., which opened for public sessions on Saturday. M2 Battlesports’ original location is in Waldo.
For $18, a player receives up to two hours of playing time on the 17-acre pine forest playing field — complete with barricades, bunkers and blackberry bushes. Owner Richard Dreher said he also plans to install lighting in the future for night games.
There are a wide variety of gun choices; all shoot accurately for 1,200 feet — which are detected by sensors worn on headbands — but some shoot at a faster rate, while others inflict more damage. Dreher is currently working on a laser tag version of a .50 caliber machine gun for future use.
“The best part of the job is playing with the toys,” Dreher said.
The entire M2 Battlesports package can also be transported and set up at a private session. Dreher said there was even a game held in front of Library West at UF last winter.
Peyton Agliata, a 16-year-old from High Springs, said one of the best parts of playing at M2 Battlesports is there isn’t any pain involved, as opposed to paintball or airsoft.
“I like it because you don’t get hit, obviously, but you get the same adrenaline rush,” she said.
Rich Hibner, a 31-year-old Gainesville resident, said laser tag is appealing to a broader range of people because it’s intense enough for adults and college students but young children and families can still play.
“Young kids can play because they don’t have to worry about getting hit,” Hibner said. “But then again, it can also be appealing to the enthusiast.”
[A version of this story ran on pages 1 - 4 on 7/15/2014 under the headline "Outdoor laser tag arena opens"]
Rich Hibner crouches behind an obstacle at the new M2 Battlesports field in Newberry on Saturday.