Tuesday, February 7th, 2023
Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Shooting Complex next in group’s crosshairs

Sparta, Ill. – The Illinois Public Policy Institute, which has
taken DNR to task for its handling of permit fees, also is
questioning the fiscal viability of the World Shooting and
Recreation Complex in southern Illinois.

The Institute released a study this month challenging whether
maintaining the shooting complex is in the best interests of
Illinois. Local leaders and DNR disagreed with the findings of the
think tank’s report “Missed Target: Sparta World Shooting and
Recreation Complex.”

The complex, which opened in 2006 at a cost of $31.5 million in
construction and $18 million for road, sewer and water
improvements, is managed by DNR. The agency has rebuffed the
Institute’s assertions that the money has been wasted.

“The World Shooting and Recreational Complex is a major employer
and economic engine for southwestern Illinois,” DNR insisted in a
statement. “The WSRC generates approximately $25 million in annual
economic activity and supports jobs in the economically challenged
region. The WSRC clearly meets a core mission of the DNR to provide
increased recreational opportunities to Illinois’ residents and
visitors.”

In a separate report, the Institute pointed to DNR for
“misdirecting money from a tax paid by sportsmen to some expenses
far from the intent of the federal law overseeing those
funds.”

The Institute looked closely at millions of dollars being spent in
recent years under the Pittman-Robertson Act, which authorizes an
11 percent tax on guns, ammunition and fishing equipment to fund
and promote sportsmen’s pursuits.

In its report on the shooting complex, the Institute claims: “The
expected benefit of increased economic activity has also not come
to fruition.”

According to the Institute estimates, the state will shell out more
than $2.4 million on WSRC maintenance, operation and other expenses
in 2010, while bringing in $1 million in revenue. The state
appropriated $2.6 million for the complex in 2011, which would be
more than $1 million more than the complex’s revenue for the same
period.

Amanda Griffin-Johnson, an analyst with the Institute and an author
of the report, said the state has other obligations it should be
funding instead of a complex that “offers dubious return on the
investment.”

Griffin-Johnson told the Southern Illinoisan newspaper, projects
such as the shooting complex are rarely scrutinized after they
open. She pointed to sales tax revenues in Sparta, which have yet
to match the more than $1.3 million the city took in when the
complex opened in 2006.

Griffin-Johnson also pointed to a statement made by local state
Rep. Dan Reitz, D-Sparta, prior to the opening of the shooting
complex. In 2004, Reitz was quoted as saying the facility “will be
the only state park in the state of Illinois that makes money.” A
year later, then-DNR Director Joel Brunsvold predicted the shooting
complex, once up and running, would bring in $50 million to $100
million in economic development each year.

The Institute’s report shows that sales taxes in Sparta actually
shows decline.

Local officials question those figures because they don’t consider
tax revenue generated outside the city of Sparta.

Shooters and spectators fill hotels and restaurants in an 80-mile
area around the complex, even spreading to the St. Louis
metropolitan area.

Local officials point to the thousands of spectators and
participants that come to the area for the Amateur Trapshooting
Associa-tion’s Grand American each summer. A number of state and
regional shooting events are also held at the shooting complex, and
camping and fishing have become popular at the site.

Sparta Chamber of Commerce President Michael Hayes said new retail
stores, places to eat and hotels in Sparta are proof that the
complex is doing its part.

“Part of it is the economy, but they’ve always had good turnouts
for Grand American the last five years,” he said.

DNR pointed out in its statement that use of the WSRC has grown
significantly as the site of many new adult and youth events. It
concluded, “The department remains committed to utilizing the WSRC
to promote safe recreational activities to the public that enhance
an appreciation of the outdoors.”

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