Whether your game is Capture the Flag or elimination, woodsball or speedball, spring's the season to cover up in protective gear, crouch behind the nearest obstacle and splatter your buddies with paintballs.

Paintball has become a phenomenon with about 5 million players nationwide, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association - including thousands of Long Islanders, local venues say.

"Soon as the weather breaks, it's like a switch goes off," says Dean Del Prete, owner of Cousins Paintball in Coram, which operates five fields nationwide.

Recognized as an extreme sport, paintball combines the fun of a childhood game of hide-and-seek with "the thrill of the hunt and the fear of getting shot," Del Prete says.

Rob Arnold of High Velocity Paintball in Coram and Bay Shore says paintball offers an adrenaline rush and lets working folks get "frustrations out on the weekend."

NEW THIS YEAR

Among spring improvements, High Velocity has added new bunkers to its park, which also features a popular castle scenario and 40 army trucks and tanks on war-themed fields.

The Island's third facility, the indoor Paintball Arena in West Babylon, is sporting a new Plexiglas viewing area so parents and other spectators can watch the action from a splat-free zone. They've also switched from color to white paint to facilitate cleaning, says owner John Pennino.

WHERE TO PLAY

Cousins Paintball : David Overton Road, Coram, 800-352-4007, cousinspaintball.com .

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The venue: 26 outdoor fields on 88 acres, plus a picnic area.

Scenario: Woodsball

Cost: $50 a person includes equipment and 500 paintballs.

Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Weekdays by reservation for groups of 10 or more.

High Velocity Paintball/High Velocity II : 426 Mill Rd., Coram, 631-242-2096, hivipaintball.com

The venue: Seven outdoor fields on 35 acres, plus a hot dog truck and snack shack with chips, drinks and candy.

Scenarios: World War II, castle, Air Force, Western town, "Attack and Defend," trench warfare and woods.

Cost: $25 a person ($10 groups of 20 or more) plus $20 for gun, face mask, air tank and unlimited compressed air fills. $30-$90 for 500-2,000 paint balls, $10 to borrow a jump suit.

Hours: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Weekdays for private parties. Reservations required.

Indoor space: High Velocity's indoor field in Bay Shore is a 15,000-foot climate-controlled space that's covered with AstroTurf (235 S. Fehr Way).

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Paintball Arena : 400 Patton Ave., West Babylon, 631-694-2707, islandpaintball.net

The venue:18,000 square feet of indoor play with sports turf and inflatable obstacles. Also has a full-service supply store, moved into a newly renovated space at this site.

Cost: $25 admission (includes air fills), plus $10 for face mask, goggles and paint gun rental. 2,000 paint balls cost $45 on weeknights, $65 on weekends.

Hours: 6-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 4-7:30 and 8-11 p.m. Friday; noon-10 p.m. Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday.

Wild West Target Paintball : 570 Rockaway Tpke., Lawrence, 516-239-1743, targetpaintball.biz

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Cost: $6 for 50 shots

Kids as young as 5 can enjoy paintball at Wild West, says Matt Rosen, whose family built and owns the facility. No goggles or other protective gear are needed, he says, because paint pellets go splat - not on people - but on skeletons, bad guys and other moving and stationary targets. The backdrop: a colorful Western town facade.