The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Foundation, in partnership with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the city of Jacksonville, announced Monday plans for a state-of-the-art shooting range facility to be built at the intersection of Loop and Graham roads in Jacksonville.
The facility will be used for shooting sports and archery and will be the largest of its kind in the state with 13 ranges and room for expansion.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Monday at the site, attended by supporters of the range mission and Gov. Mike Beebe. The range will be called the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex.
"We are very pleased to announce the groundbreaking for this one-of-a-kind facility," said Bobby Martin, current chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation. "Upon completion, this will be the premier shooting range facility in the state."
Arkansas leads the nation in shooting sports participants thanks largely to the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Complex Program (AYSSP), which is an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission program.
Over 7,000 students participate in the program each year. Teams are made up of participants from both public and private schools, 4-H and other community organizations. The junior division is made up of 6-8 grade students, and the senior division is made up of 9-12 grade students. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will utilize the range for activities and tournaments.
"This range is going to be a tremendous asset to Jacksonville and the state of Arkansas," said Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher. "We are excited to be a part of such a large project. The city of Jacksonville has donated the land for this fine facility and fully supports this initiative."
A capital campaign will be launched in early 2013 to support the plans for building the facility. The Game and Fish Foundation is funding the project, along with contributions from the capital campaign. Bond Engineering is developing the site and Wittenberg, Deloney and Davidson Inc. is the architectural firm designing the complex.
"Now more than ever, it is important that we provide our young people with the space to learn about shooting sports, archery, hunting and fishing, and this range facility is a gateway to the lifelong path of enjoying these things," said Martin.
State Rep. Mark Perry said it took about two years to get the project underway.
"Everyone contributing to this shows how public and private partnerships can work together," Perry said. "We put together a team we have been working on this for two years. The foundation stepped up with the funding."
Martin announced during the ground-breaking ceremony that an unnamed donor decided Monday to pledge $50,000 toward the project.
Beebe said the complex should be testimony to the many good young people in the state of Arkansas who don’t get the credit they deserve for being good citizens.
He said too much attention is given to the fact that a minority of young people do acts that grab the headlines because of bad behavior.
Beebe said the complex will speak about the Arkansas heritage of loving the outdoors.