TIFTON -- A new recreation facility opening here this weekend bills itself as the largest indoor paintball area in the world.

Paintball City opens Saturday in a 58,000-square-foot former warehouse on Leslie Locke Road, just off Carpenter Road and U.S. Highway 82. The playing area will eventually be divided into six fields, co-owner Jim DeHart said Wednesday.

"Paintball is the fastest-growing sport in the world," DeHart said. "It's safer than horseback riding and safer than golf, especially if the facility is run properly.

"It's really a growing sport."

Once it's fully operational, the new business will be open on Wednesdays from 6 to 11 p.m. for ladies' night, on Thursdays for church and civic groups and from 11 a.m. Friday to 11 p.m. Sunday on weekends.

"We'll start a new game every five minutes," DeHart said. "On this first field, we'll have a flag in the middle, and whoever doesn't get shot and gets the flag wins."

On Wednesday, dump trucks were bringing in the first of 22 loads of dirt to landscape the first field. Personnel director Tracy Swing said hay will be placed on top on the mounded dirt to create an outdoor atmosphere and keep players from slipping on the concrete floors.

The facility expects to draw paintball enthusiasts from within a 100-mile radius of Tifton and could eventually employ as many as 200 people, Swing said.

Daily admission is $15, DeHart said. Rentals of all necessary equipment, including guns, is another $15, and Paintball City requires that players buy their paintballs there. (Two thousand balls cost about $50.)

"You can buy balls at other places, but they could be six months old," DeHart said. "Plus, some idiots freeze balls, and that can really hurt somebody. Our stock will be alternated every two weeks so that it's fresh."

For more information, call Paintball City at 386-4853.

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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