'Grand American' could leave Sparta if World Shooting Complex cl - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

'Grand American' could leave Sparta if World Shooting Complex closes

(Source: Giacomo Luca,KFVS) (Source: Giacomo Luca,KFVS)
(Source: Giacomo Luca,KFVS) (Source: Giacomo Luca,KFVS)
(Source: Giacomo Luca,KFVS) (Source: Giacomo Luca,KFVS)

One of the largest shooting events in the world could leave Sparta, Illinois if the state shutters the venue due to the Illinois budget deadlock.

The 1,600 acres World Shooting Complex will close October 1 because the state hasn't appropriated funds to it. That is striking fears with leaders of the Amateur Trapshooting Association and organizers of the Grand American Trapshooting Tournament, the largest event of its' kind in the world.

The Grand American draws more than 16,000 people to Sparta including more than 4,600 competitors each year. Executive Director of the ATA Lynn Gipson said the Grand American has to happen whether it's in Sparta or somewhere else. He said if the ATA leaves, it likely will not return to Sparta.

“In the next few months if nothing’s resolved, if the budgets still out there – We’re going to have to start looking at other locations," Gispon said. "We don’t want to do that, we want to stay here [in Sparta] but we have to have a Grand American somewhere. We owe it to our membership.”

The Grand American has been held every year for the past 115 years. The competition moved from Vendalia, Ohio to Sparta in 2001.

“It’s a big deal for this area. It’s a big deal for us to," Gipson said.

The $50 million facility has drawn criticism that it would not pay for itself. Gipson said the complex has an operating budget of $2.4 million per year and directly draws in half that but Gipson said the complex draws brings $22 million to the region each year which in turn generates tax revenue to the state.

The Grand American brings in an estimated $12 million per year alone. Gispon said if the ATA leaves Sparta, it will be hard to justify keeping the complex open.

The ATA employs a staff of 15 people annually. During the tournament, 300 part time workers are hired locally.

“It’s kind of coming down to the wire but we’re hoping," Gipson said.

Gipson said he believes that the complex could bring in an additional $8 million to $10 million per year if new management takes over.

“This thing pays for itself," Gipson said.

Gipson suggested promoting both shooting and non shooting events including promotion of camping and tourism. He said the complex could host large concerts, RV rallies and charity events such as races.

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