Merrill     Dunes

2020 Booking Steps for Private Events:  Are you short on time?   Just call and we can quickly explain the procedure and will try to tailor details to work for you. Or read the complicated story below! (Obvious hint:  just call!)

Once you decide to lock up a booking time, we will ask you to provide us with a cell phone number, a credit card number, and perhaps an email address.  You will need to make a commitment and we need to be able to keep in touch.


Our booking policies are designed to retain the practicality of offering high quality private bookings, where your group alone has exclusive use of the Playing Field as well as the Safe Zone and Eating Area. Private bookings are what any group wants – for very good reasons! But providing such an important feature does have very real business costs.

When a group makes a “booking”, a large switch is flipped > GO > and we will be there to make the exclusive event happen. And there are very real costs involved associated with reliable performance of that promise. All too often, the group isn’t there, and the cost and disruption on our end is Real. The organizer who requests that we perform, must appreciate what he or she is asking and our “booking” system helps to clarify the “deal” that has been agreed on.

The fine print is on the website for the few who want to take the time to crawl through it but the simple route is to call, tell us what you want, and we will quickly tell you the costs involved, how the game works, and what pitfalls you want to avoid. We are out to keep clients happy and want things to run easily and smoothly for everyone’s benefit.  A large % of clients are repeat clients and "bookings" are very simple.

When you make a booking, at 14 days prior to the event, we run a credit card pre-authorization ( no actual charge occurs at this point – but we are assured the card is good ) for half the gross cost* of the event you have requested plus insurance that you request plus .016% to offset potential credit card charges. Gross cost* is the player unit cost times the number of players required as a minimum for the time slot you select. Groups above 23 players are handled slightly differently.

In the case of small spot bookings, either paintball or laser, and also for all small laser bookings (under $500 gross), we run a pre-authorization for the entire gross plus insurance requested plus potential credit card cost. Only half the gross is a risk in the event of a cancellation without insurance coverage. Cash or debit payment on site at the event date avoids credit card costs. Low turnout that drops player numbers below the agreed minimum means the charge for the missing players comes out of the deposit and the players present only have to pay the agreed player charge associated with the minimum required turnout. Thus the organizer is responsible for the shortage charges, not the reliable players who made the effort to attend as promised. The organizer must realize that it is their neck that is on the line and they need to be sure their supporters are not going to let them down. Organizers are important. Groups rarely perform without a good leader. Organizers must know what they are committing themselves too.

Insurance on an event allows you to cancel for any reason without loss of any of the basic deposit. Three levels of insurance (5%, 7%, and 10%) are available to allow cancellation without further cost right up to 5 hrs before the event is to begin. The highest coverage insurance costs 10% of half of the gross* figure discussed above. A cancellation without insurance, within 14 days of an event means the entire reservation deposit is lost. We strongly recommend insuring up to 4 days ahead of the event start time at a 7% cost, or roughly $2.00 per player for 2 hr paintball and slightly less for laser.

Events that will occur in the last two weeks of June have a higher insurance cost and slightly tighter booking rules.

Weather and other Issues:  if an organizer or group purchases cancellation insurance, the organizer simply tells the Dunes what the group wants to do up to the point the insurance expires. Otherwise, the only weather cancellation occurs in the parking lot at the scheduled group arrival time, and the call is a Merrill Dunes call. Especially for paintball, it is rare that conditions are too bad to go, and history proves that the vast majority of “weather” cancellations that we have seen occur over the years were not legitimate. Merrill Dunes is in a dry zone and on sand – when it rains in the city, very often there is no rain at Merrill Dunes, unfortunately! Other issues? Sickness of the birthday boy, flue in the group, team tryouts, coach is away, getting lost on the way to the field, car mishap on way to the field, group member slow at getting to meeting spot, deaths in the family, jerk friends copped out at the last minute – these things can happen and we all need to accept personal reality without unduly unloading on others – thus our insurance feature that protects groups against the unexpected without kicking Merrill Dunes in the teeth for every cancellation “reason” that comes along! We foot the bills for being on duty when needed – insurance lets groups fulfill their commitment to arrive and play in their exclusive time slot or provide a fair compensation for failure. And the main deposit is there to allow Merrill Dunes to keep providing private events if the organizer and group chose to take a calculated “no insurance” risk that they are often confident is very small.  But realize - as an organizer, you are the one who has requested us to hop to it and there are costs involved that someone has to pay.

Once you let us know exactly what event details you are after, we will provide you with a deposit amount and an insurance cost list.  Basically, cancellation insurance is based on approximately half the eventual cost of the event and there are usually three levels of insurance protection.  To start with, you can book as far ahead as you wish and we do ask for a credit card number with the booking request.  But you can cancel with two weeks to go to the event date with no charge.  Then for 5% of the deposit you can buy the right to cancel up to 7 days ahead, 7% lets you cancel up to 4 days ahead, and 10% lets you cancel up to 5 hours ahead of the agree event arrival time.  Event dates can be advanced if time slots are available but a delay is the same as a cancel and a new booking with associate costs has to be made.  And don't forget, bookings can often be made two days or one day ahead - deposits in those cases can be hammered out on the spot to everyone's satisfaction.

Groups that book for times in the last 2 weeks of June are under a bit more pressure to be reliable as many groups book in this time period with the planning taking place far in advance.  A deposit pre-authorization occurs 30 days ahead of the event date and is at risk should there be a cancellation.  2 week cancellation insurance is 5%, 1 week is 7%, 4 day is 10%, and 5 hr is 20%

Here are two examples using a small group scenario and then a large group scenario.

First, assume a 2 hr paintball event on a weekday evening.  Say you expect 20 players.  You still qualify as a small group and the minimum player number for that time slot is 10 players.  So you have lots of safety buffer.  If only 10 players show up, each would pay $48.75 for a gross charge of $487.50.  Your reservation deposit will be half that figure or $243.75.  Say you want to play things very safe and opt for 10% / 5 hr ahead cancellation insurance.  Your credit card, two weeks before the event date, will have a pre-authorization run on it for $243.75 + $24.38 + .016% of the total to cover possible credit card charges.  Thus a total of $272.42.  If you cancel with at least 5 hrs to go to the agreed-on arrival time, and you opt for us to charge your credit card, the bill will be $24.77 total.  If everything goes well and the group comes as planned, you will still pay the insurance charge.  You could see this as a cost of $2.48 per player if 10 players is the goal or as half that figure if 20 players is the goal.  Say the group turns out to be only 9 players but you decide to go ahead with the event, we would charge each player $48.75 and $48.75 (perhaps plus the .016% card expense) would be taken from the deposit and you would also pay the insurance charge, but the remainder of the deposit would never be charged.  If 12 players came, you would get the entire deposit back less the insurance charge and each player would pay the 12 player charge of $47.00.  Actually, nothing is run on your card until after the event and you can chose to cut cost slightly by using cash or debit rather than credit card payment.  But the pre-authorization assures us that your credit card is good for the deposit and insurance amount, if we have to try to collect.  So that is the system - simply come as agreed on and apart from the insurance charges that you decide to add for safety sake, there is no cost other than the individual player charges. And Merrill Dunes can relax and worry about having good staff on hand and delivering a good experience to the majority of groups that do follow through on their booking!

Now, say you have a group that is larger than 20 players.  It is worth trying to accurately estimate group size as we have to have staff and equipment and supplies available and ready in order for things to run smoothly for you.  And we may have other groups at another field or groups ahead or after your group that also need attention.  A group does require preparation and forward planning!  Say you predict 30 players for 2 hrs of paintball.  We take 15% of your estimated number, which would be 4.5 players, round that number to the lower full unit of 4, and work with a 26 player total.  You are committed to have that minimum number attend or be paid for.  The gross cost will be $42.50 x 26 = $1105.00.  Half the gross is is $552.5.  You opt for 7% insurance with a 4 day cancellation window.  The pre-authorization on your credit card will be $552.5 plus $38.68 for 4 day insurance and then with the .016% credit card cost the total pre-authorized will be $600.63.  Assuming the predicted 30 players do attend, insurance cost including cc charges would be $39.30/30 = $1.31 per player.  So long as at least 26 players attend and pay the $42.50 player charge, nothing but the insurance charge is run on your card.  And if you wish to use cash or debit to cover the insurance cost, nothing is run on your card at all.  But do realize the risks of organizing.  Groups are a challenge to organize.  A rain storm two days ahead can slash attendance.  And make sure you know our weather policy - the decision for a weather cancel occurs at our parking lot, at the arrival time for the event, and is a Merrill Dunes call!  We  aren't ogres but neither are we prepared to ignore the responsibility of others to appreciate financial viability.  

We have seen predictions of 40 players with the final reality being 10, and more mild disasters are common.  The organizers blundered.  In 2020 our booking policy will reduce the type of beating we have taken on too many such situations.  But as an organizer, don't think that a Facebook or "work place bulletin board" signup list assures anything. Make sure you are protected and have solid group backing before you make a "booking".  The dollar figures that a "booking" lays in front of you are realistic as far as our costs go.  Better for us to have a blank slot or prepare for a small group than to bank on "Surprise Non Events"!

A further note on Mega Groups.  Many people think that a huge turnout should delight us.  We face the same challenge as cities that commit to the Olympics.  We are set up to handle the 98% of groups that are under 20 players.  Mega groups require unusually high levels of staffing and very different tactics that we normally don't deal with.  As a result, mega groups cost more per player than a group of 20, and they are not a common occurrence.  Our prices bottom out at 20 players and remain there up to 50 players.  At 51 players we are after a $5.00/player surcharge.  At 71 players we are after a $10.00 surcharge.  Thus a group of 70 is going to boost total cost by $100 and 100 players is going to boost cost by $400 vs the basic 20 player cost - not a shocking figure given the challenge of handling the overload.  Also, we use a 10% rather than a 15% discount figure to arrive at the minimum player number for a mega group.  A hundred prediction means we charge for 90 even if only 85 players attend.  For a prediction of 50 players, we expect a minimum of 43 players.  A 51 player prediction - we expect a minimum of 46.  Got a mega group?  Consider splitting it between our two fields as a cost cutting measure.
Call 306-382-2728 or call or text 306-280-4100
Call 306-382-2728 or call or text 306-280-4100