Shooting for Fun and Profit

There was opposition from the start. When construction started on the Clark County Shooting Range in 2008, residential neighbors worried about gunfire popping at the site at the north end of Decatur Boulevard. Privately owned gun ranges opposed the $61 million project, saying it amounted to government subsidizing their competition.

But the project moved forward nonetheless, the culmination of two decades of discussions. Proponents said a “public shooting park” would curtail illegal shooting in the desert, which has periodically resulted in injury, death and destruction of property. Plus—this is the Wild West— a world-class gun range seemed a match for the live-and-let-live Valley. The park opened in early 2010, and Sen. Harry Reid and Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins, in whose district the range sits, mugged for the media with guns in hand. Nearly two years later, the range, which was established in the Parks and Recreation Department but intended to eventually make money, isn’t turning a profit. Instead, it continues to draw money from the County Recreation Activity Fund, which was designed to pay for activities such as the after-school Safekey program.

Clark County transferred $1.5 million from the Recreation Activity Fund to the gun park in fiscal 2010. County officials say the plan, which originally called for the range to be self-sufficient by 2012, is now to reduce the subsidies from the Recreation Activity Fund each year by 50 percent until it becomes profitable in 2014.

“They claim it’s not a subsidy, it’s a loan, but [the range] has a long way to go before it’s self-sufficient,” says Commissioner Steve Sisolak. For the first two months of fiscal year 2012, the shooting range has brought in about $93,500 per month and spent about $123,500 a month. “We’ve talked about privatizing. We shouldn’t be competing with the private sector.”

Proponents of the original plans for the shooting park, such as state Sen. John Lee, a range advisory committee member and candidate for Congress, say no park is self-sufficient—parks such as Sunset Park and Desert Breeze are taxpayer-subsidized, and that in a few years, the park will be a money-making enterprise that’s self-supporting.

County support staff offered this analysis: “We project profitability with the completion of the Sporting Clay course, which is scheduled to open in the second quarter of fiscal year 2013 [fall 2012]. The original financial projections were for profitability with the completion of the entire range master plan. However, there are several planned shooting facilities that have not been completed due to lack of available capital funding.”

Meanwhile, it seems the park is struggling with an identity crisis—is it, indeed, a park? Or an “enterprise” that will make money? In June, the commission voted to change its original name, Clark County Shooting Park, to Clark County Shooting Range—because, Collins told the media, “park” gives the impression that the site is for soccer and baseball.

Last month, the commission approved plans to sell aggregate gravel off of the range site to bolster the budget, which doesn’t thrill some neighbors. Meanwhile, the range advisory committee discussed creating a “Tourism Range Speakeasy and Western Saloon” on site. Lee says the speakeasy and saloon would not offer alcohol sales but a Western-themed, costumed shooting experience for busloads of tourists.

Another potential moneymaker, Lee says, is sponsorship. “If someone wants to change the name of a range or building, that will be a possibility.

“And, another thing is, you can get married up there.”

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