Business Booms With Trapshooting Attendance


Jeff White
August 9, 2006, 11:13 PM
It's great to see the shooting sports positively portrayed in the media..
Business booms with trapshooting attendance
By Leah Thorsen


Blinking signs along corn-lined highways directed drivers, some of whom had to commute at least an hour from area hotels, to the world's largest trapshooting competition under way Tuesday in Sparta.

The contest is taking place at the World Shooting & Recreational Complex, which opened this summer.

Built on a former coal strip mine about 50 miles southeast of St. Louis, the complex boasts 1,600 acres of shooting areas, 1,000 campsites, 120 trap fields and 4,000 parking spots.

It has sparked controversy because of its $50 million price - $20 million more than Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration initially had predicted.

Organizers say 7,000 competitors and as many as 100,000 spectators will come to the Grand American championship, which will run through Aug. 18.

And that's a big deal for this Randolph County town of about 4,400 people.

"The potential is just phenomenal," said Toni Pautler, president of the Sparta Chamber of Commerce.

Business boomed during the U.S. Open Trapshooting Championships at the complex last month, she said.

Some restaurants reported 40 percent increases in customers, she said.

Pautler acknowledged that lodging options were limited in Sparta, where less than a handful of hotels can be found.

All 28 rooms in the Best Western were booked more than a year ago, when it was announced the trapshooting event would be in Sparta, said Dharmesh Patel, one of the owners of the hotel.

He said a few vacancies were expected in upcoming days but not many, even with a $22-a-night rate increase during the trapshooting contest.

Marie Painter and her family, who came from LaVergne, Tenn., to watch her 17-year-old son compete, had hoped to find a hotel close to the shooting complex.

But after a bevy of calls a few weeks ago, she realized that wasn't going to happen.

"Everything's booked around here," she said.

So they ended up almost an hour away at a Best Western in Nashville, Ill.

They weren't the only ones driving. Most inns within 50 miles were filled with shooters, including hotels in O'Fallon and Fairview Heights, said Charles Fritzges, the tournament director.

He said he hadn't heard too many complaints about drive times.

Things could improve the next time the trapshooting contest comes to town. Two more hotels, a Holiday Inn Express and Comfort Inn, are under construction.

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August 10, 2006, 12:27 PM
120 trap fields !! :what:

mons meg
August 10, 2006, 12:33 PM
Jeff, I thought your Governor was "less than enthusiastic" about firearms?

It has sparked controversy because of its $50 million price - $20 million more than Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration initially had predicted.

Does this mean state money was involved? I am confused... ;)

August 10, 2006, 02:00 PM
I thought I'd add a link to a related article about a trap range in Wisconsin.

Durand Rod & Gun Club: Shots served on the side
A gun club in Durand, Wis., has a lengthy history of providing patrons a chance to shoot and a good chicken dinner.
Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune

DURAND, WIS. - Say what you want about mom and apple pie, chicken and guns are about as American as you can get.

Plenty of each is served up twice monthly May to October not far from this picturesque town about an hour east of the Twin Cities.

It's there that the Durand Rod & Gun Club hosts league and public trapshooting -- and chicken dinners so tasty they rival the Colonel's.

"We might be the oldest continually operating gun club in the United States," said Vaughn Hoffman, whose term as a gun-club president -- 21 years -- might also be the longest-running in the nation.

The other night at the Durand club, Hoffman and I and a friend we share, Norb Berg, were blasting holes in the sky, targeting clay pigeons with a few score other shooters.

Fun as pulling a trigger is, it was the chicken that brought Norb and me to the rolling western Wisconsin countryside that brackets the Chippewa River.

Sitting high atop a bluff overlooking that river, the Durand Rod & Gun Club has offered the twice-monthly Thursday night chicken dinners so long that its present chef, John Harmon, was preceded in the kitchen not only by his daddy, but by his daddy's daddy.

And the menu -- all-you-can-eat fried chicken, homemade biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy, and more -- never changes.

"No need to," Hoffman said, adding:

"We feed between 300 and 550 people, depending on the night." (Reservations are required; see accompanying story.)

Incorporated in 1918, the club has been at its present site since 1925. League and public shooting are offered every Thursday evening and one Sunday a month.

On the recent evening that Norb, Vaughn and I shot together, the club took on the air of a family reunion. Hundreds of diners showed up, and most appeared to know one another.

Similarly, those who shuffled from trap station to trap station did so as if carrying a winning lottery ticket. "Pull!" a shooter would bark, sending into the blue yonder a target that sometimes was broken, sometimes not.

Soon, Norb, Vaughn, Vaughn's wife, Muriel, and I were called to dinner. Tootie Sinz of Durand was one of our waitresses, Cheryl Traun of Nelson, Wis., another.

Norb, who's been a few places, surveyed the club's dining hall, grinning.

"This is as good as it gets," he said.

Later, he and I drove long stretches of two-lane blacktop en route back to the Twin Cities, watching a disappearing sun spray a rainbow of colors against a clear western sky.

We had guns in our possession and a chicken dinner behind us.

This was America and we were part of it.

Everywhere we looked, we saw opportunity.

August 10, 2006, 04:30 PM
I dream of starting a shooting sports complex.

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