The city of Jonesboro broke ground Wednesday (Feb. 7) on a proposed shooting range and education center along Moore Road. The facility could cost between $8 million and $10 million, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has pledged $2 million toward the project.
Jonesboro has already spent $1.276 million to buy the 208 acres on Moore Road where the range and center will be located. Construction will begin as soon as the weather permits, and the AGFC grant will pay for the ground work.
Final building plans have not been completed until the city knows how many public-private partners will commit financially, said Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin. Business leaders from around the city have expressed interest, and Perrin thinks they’ll meet their financial goals. The facility has to be completed in 2020 to satisfy grant requirements.
“We’re going to build a nice facility here,” Perrin told a crowd prior to the groundbreaking.
City and state officials, including Arkansas State Highway Commissioner Alec Farmer, and AGFC Commissioner Stan Jones were among those in attendance. The swath of land located in the southern sector of the city near the industrial park, is near Interstate 555. At one point, Perrin joked that Farmer needed to find money for an off ramp from the interstate to the range.
The range will boast nine trap stations and three that can convert into skeet shot stations, Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott told Talk Business & Politics. Each station will cost about $35,000. The building will be about 8,000-square-feet, and will include classrooms, a pro shop, a concession stand, a patio, and other amenities. Several 3-D archery targets will be constructed, and a 50-yard pistol range.
About 30 acres on the property are wooded, and it will provide a “buffer zone” for the range, Elliott said. A pond on the property will be stocked with fish, and visitors will be allowed to fish. The range will be open to the public, and area law enforcement will be able to train there. Classrooms will be able to hold 50-100 people, and several training courses will be held.
“Rick has spent many, many, many hours working on this,” Perrin said.
Private partners could acquire the naming rights for the facility or parts of it such as the individual trap stations, Perrin said. The facility will be a regional draw for gun enthusiasts and law enforcement agencies, according to city officials. Perrin expects traffic from the Memphis area. School districts will be permitted to utilize the facility, too.
Law enforcement officers will use the range for training the first two days of the week, and those days will also be dedicated to cleanup and maintenance. The complex will be open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, and will be operated by the city.
It has not been determined how much the public will be charged to use the shooting range, or if memberships will be offered. Most of the money generated would go toward operating expenses, officials said. How many full and part-time workers the range will employ has not been determined.
Elliott’s vision for local residents and the range is simple. On a Saturday morning he hopes a family will load their guns and fishing poles and head to the range. They’ll spend the day shooting on the range and fishing in the pond. When they come back to the building they’ll stop for lunch and maybe watch a college football game on the patio.
“That’s the kind of experience we want them to have,” he said.
It’s an experience that is growing in the U.S., according to a November 2016 report from research firm IBISWorld. That report said revenue from U.S. shooting ranges is estimated at $1 billion, with 4.5% annual growth between 2011 and 2016. The report estimated 2,425 shooting range facilities in the U.S., with employment of 17,448.
The report also noted:
• Renewed enthusiasm for firearms led consumers to visit more shooting ranges;
• The industry has contended with competition from alternate forms of leisure and sports activities; and
• Although demand has fallen from its 2012 surge, firearm enthusiasm remains relatively high.