ELYSBURG — Nearly 1.3 million White Flyer targets — made locally in Shamokin — are not the only things being released this week at the Pennsylvania State Trap Shoot in Elysburg.
So, too, are details of a proposed $4 million year-round shooting complex in the works for the Valley Gun & Country Club grounds.
“We’ve been throwing registered targets 23 days a year at this facility with so much to offer, and wanted to broaden it to other types of clay target shooting — primarily sporting clays and skeet,” said Mike Schuler, president of the Pennsylvania State Shotgunning Association (PSSA), on Tuesday. “To be able to go from a very short seasonal offering to doing something year-round to a wider group of shooters is a big deal and very exciting.”
The PSSA shared the grounds with the Valley Gun & Country Club for quite some time, but there was some friction a few years ago that almost led to the PSSA changing venues, but that is no longer an issue, Schuler admitted.
“There was some question about an old lease a few years ago that is now resolved and we have the title and full access to the facility,” he said. “It was necessary to get to this point before we invested in all the renovations necessary to make this a year-round destination. Everyone is committed moving forward. We have civil engineers currently working on securing the necessary permits.”
As long as all continues to advance as planned, Schuler expects ground to be broken on the project — to be named the Northeast Shooting Complex — by September, with the sporting clays phase the first priority.
“Research shows that seven out of 10 new shooters are gravitating toward sporting clays versus ATA trapshooting,” said Schuler. “Sporting clays offers a unique shooting experience where four or five or six guys can go around together like a round of golf, chatting, talking and not standing on a trap line where everyone is quiet and doing their own thing.”
If all goes as planned, he added, the first shots fired over the sporting clays course could come by early November.
“The PSSA expansion will definitely open up opportunities for local businesses to have corporate events, host charities and do other events,” said Robert Crow, salesman at White Flyer targets out of Shamokin. “We have a longstanding relationship with the PSSA and are excited about the addition of sporting clays, as it expands the type of targets that will be shot on site.”
Funding for the $4 million facility is coming in three main forms, including individual donations, corporate donations with naming opportunities — “Like baseball stadiums such as PNC Park, groups like Krieghoff that are tied to the shooting industry can donate toward naming rights,” Schuler said — and applications for public money via recreation capital from the state.
Bloomsburg professor Heather Feldhaus, who helped oversee an economic impact study of the state shoot in 2015 that suggested the nine-day event brought $2.67 million to the Valley in 2014, is optimistic the year-round shooting complex will offer a strong boost to the region.
“When we did our study, it was amazing to see the loyalty there was to that shoot. It is unusual where people come to an annual event like that for 10 or more years, but it truly is a family event and the shooters have a passion for it,” she said.
There were some indicators from her study that she feels will play well into the new venture’s success.
“The group has a strong team, they know their market and are well-connected across the state,” she said. “In the state shoot, there are a lot of older participants, partially because it isn’t a cheap sport and because you it tends to bring shooters who are more accomplished. But, by diversifying to other types of shooting, that brings in different dynamics and types of people that will plug into the region while they are here.”
Andrew Miller, from the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau, agreed.
“It has the potential to be a win-win for visitor spending and a positive economic impact,” he said. “Any business that can bring people in and keep them here potentially overnight helps make the need for a hotel in that region more relevant and will likely be music to the ears to a developer wanting a potential investment to be enhanced.”
Not all early response to the news was met with excitement, however.
Tina Schock, of Westminster, Maryland, admitted being nervous about potential changes while she cheered on her husband during the state shoot Tuesday afternoon.
“We love this shoot and the facility, and I have some concern with talks about it expanding and getting bigger,” she said. “What effect will that have on the trap shooting events at this place?”
Jerry Stefkovich, of Washington, Pennsylvania, is also devoted completely to trap shooting, attending competitions all over the country.
“Change can be scary no matter what, and I do love this facility, but I’m open to whatever happens that help get more young people into shotgun shooting in general — even if it is through sporting clays or skeet,” he said.
For more information about the Northeast Shooting Complex project, all are welcome to a special meeting at the state shoot at 6 p.m. today, or you can visit www.pssashotgunning.org.