Arkansas Game and Fish Commission aims to build high-end sports shooting complex

A proposed shooting range is set to pit towns and NWA residents against each other for the honor of hosting the attraction.

What is happening: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) Director Austin Booth told the Northwest Arkansas Council’s annual meeting in July that his agency wanted to build a high-end sports shooting complex in this corner of the state.

  • The AGFC will seek competitive RFPs from any combination of public, private and/or commercial entities.

The big picture: A study estimates $16.9 billion was dedicated to recreational shooting in the United States in 2016. Another calculates this target shooting contributed $21.2 billion to the nation’s GDP in 2020, including $205 million in Arkansas.

  • To note : With 15 manufacturers located here, the AGFC says the state is No. 4 in the United States for per capita economic output in the firearms and ammunition industry.

Why is this important: In addition to serving nearly one million Arkansans, the lineup would be another step in NWA’s strategy to attract tourists and increase their dwell time with outdoor and sporting attractions.

Threat level: Booth is outspoken on the issue of gun violence. He sees a facility like this as a contribution to responsible gun ownership. It would help people “further their interests and their firearms — not in the dark, not in isolation — but in the light of day with their neighbours,” he told Axios.

  • “[AGFC’s] obligation is to provide hunters and recreational shooters with the public access they need to become safer and more responsible citizens and outdoor enthusiasts,” he said.

State of play: While the five biggest cities in the NWA are interested in the equipment, representatives from Springdale and Fayetteville told Axios that they don’t have the land.

  • Steve Cox, who heads economic development at the Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce, said he was waiting to review the tender before making a decision.
  • A spokesperson for Siloam Springs told us the city would not proceed with the tender.

  • Representatives for Bentonville did not respond to multiple requests from Axios.

This means that the proposal will likely be pursued by private landowners.

What they say : “We would certainly support it if the land available was identified,” Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse told Axios in an email.

  • “We could also participate at some level, if that suited our [police department] qualifying needs. Either way, it’s a great project and we’d love to see it in or near Springdale,” he said.

Details: Although the call for tenders is not yet public, a brochure outlines certain requirements for the range, including:

  • The lot must be at least 150 acres with a depth of 400 to 450 meters.
  • The location should allow for a north/northeast orientation for all-day shooting.
  • There must be minimal residential development nearby.
  • It should have access to public infrastructure, including roads and utilities.

Ideally, the site will be within a 30-minute drive of NWA, Booth told Axios. He used Springdale as the hypothetical center of the region.

And after: The RFP will be displayed on the AGFC website at the end of August, Booth told Axios.

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