Friday, February 13, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> One million rounds at range

Leader sports editor

One million shots have been fired in one year at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex in Jacksonville. Mayor Gary Fletcher and several others were on hand to celebrate the milestone with a commemorative round on Wednesday.

Jacksonville Aldermen Kenny Elliot and Mary Twitty, as well as Police Chief Kenny Boyd, street department director Jimmy Oakley and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Youth Shooting Sports director Chuck Wood-son joined Mayor Fletcher for the commemorative round.

“It reassures us that we have something special here in Jacksonville that brings people, not just from this state, but we’ve people from six other states competing at this facility,” said Flecther.

“It’s obviously something that’s still going to grow. They told us if we do 750,000 rounds a year for five years, it would be deemed a success, and we’ve 25 percent more than what was projected,” he added.

About 200,000 of those rounds were fired during the five weeks of youth shooting tournaments that Woodson oversees each spring. The Jacksonville range took over those tournaments from the Remington firing range last year.

There are four regional tournaments before the best teams in each regional come back for the state competition. Approximately 1,000 to 1,200 junior high and high school students take part in each one, and Woodson expects even more this year.

“The youth shooting program is still growing,” said Woodson. “It’s well over 5,000 kids participating and we’re expecting another growth spurt this year; a little bit anyway. There are 20 more schools added onto the program this year and there are currently about 270 schools involved in the program across the state. Of course we allow church groups and 4H and programs like that to compete, so there are about 350 programs total.”

With participation in shooting sports projected to grow, the facility will grow with it. Fletcher said construction will begin on the 3-D archery range, that’s been in the plans from the project’s inception, this year. There will also be 19 camp sites added in the parking lot with water and power supplies for recreational vehicles.

The first day of shooting last year was on Jan. 1, but the grand opening wasn’t until May. Woodson says he has already seen an increase in the number of teams that come to the range for practice, and believes the facility will do well over one million this year.

“With last year’s competitions and more and more people becoming aware of what we have here, more and more I believe will be coming to prepare for these competitions, especially when it starts to warm up,” Woodson said. “The parks and rec department there is second to none. I’ve never worked with a group of people so willing to help in my life. The city of Jacksonville really has something special and a group of people really diligent about making it a success.”