The National Xball League relased its 2019 schedule through GoSports on Nov. 27, and there are some pretty notable changes from this past season. The 2019 NXL Europe schedule posted shortly thereafter on PbNation had some similarly interesting new locations.
The obvious change to the U.S. slate is the removal of the Atlantic City Open, an event that some players have seen as subpar. In its place is the new East Coast Open in Philadelphia, Pa. Considering the massive success of events like the Iron City Classic near Pittsburgh, it makes sense that the NXL would want to move into this region.
The league looks to have considered similar issues in developing the NXL Europe schedule. 2019’s first event has been moved to Spain — which has a surprisingly large number of paintball fields and paintball-related businesses according to a quick Google search — removing one of two France-based events from the 2018 list. As with the East Coast Open, the NXL is likely looking to grow the sport by targeting a developing market in Spain.
Perhaps more interesting is the elimination of the Basildon, England, event. The Paris event, normally the last of the season, has been moved to the second slot of the year, with Prague now in mid-July. Like Atlantic City, players may have influenced this decision. San Diego Dynasty veteran Ryan Greenspan voiced his displeasure with the Basildon locale on Twitter this past season:
The NXL, of course, wants to keep the players happy and provide the best events possible. The league may also be hedging its bets amid continuing economic uncertainty in the UK as Brexit drags on. But it feels a little odd not to have an event in Europe considering UK-based Planet Eclipse’s massive influence on paintball over the past decade-plus. The league may well return to the UK in the future, either by moving an event again or expanding to a five-event calendar, but for the moment it seems like a vital market is being left out.
In Paris’ place at season’s end is the new Amsterdam Open. If this was an appeal to the players, it’s hard to think of a better city to hold an event in. Amsterdam’s beauty, history, and storied reputation as a tier-one party city seem all but guaranteed to be popular with players, and from a fan’s perspective, the potential fun conjures images of the old Mardi Gras events of the early 2000s.
Taken as a whole, it seems the NXL is listening to some of the players’ concerns while capitalizing on new regional marketing opportunities. The attention to player opinion may be partly in response to rumblings about a new competitor league, the National Paintball League (NPL), that supposedly wants to make paintball more professionalized and viewer-friendly. Regardless of the underlying motivations, though, the 2019 spread of venues seems geared toward growing paintball, a goal all fans of the sport can get behind.