“Just a waste of money!” When the World Shooting & Recreation Complex in Sparta, Illinois was first discussed, I heard that statement more than one time. The very thought of building a multi-purpose shooting and recreation facility on 1500 acres of former coal ground, in the middle of corn fields close to a town that sounds more like it should be in the deep south, miles from any major Interstate or population center, in a state with an anti-gun reputation...ludicrous!
When it was made known that the initial cost for the WSRC would exceed $40,000,000.00 the scofflaws had a field day. Then, perhaps not a miracle but something close to one occurred. Some of the major shooting sports companies partnered with the State to come up with all of the money needed to create one of the largest, a 3.5 mile trap field as part of the front border, shooting complexes in the U.S. and then they persuaded the ATA to move the Grand American Trap Shooting Championship, “The Grand”, from its home in Ohio to the WSRC.
I attended that first Grand at Sparta and aside from it being very hot and with a few understandable bumps in the road, it went well. Little did anyone know how that facility would affect shooting, not only in Southern Illinois but throughout the entire U.S.
For the past several years one of the most encouraging events in the shooting sports has been the increasing number of young shooters entering the sport. Shooters in both junior high and high school have been one of the faster growing groups. This year over 2000 young shooters. Representing schools from all over the U.S., attended and participated in the Scholastic Clay Target Program Nationals. What a sight to see over 2000 young people, their coaches, parents, grandparents and friends in one place at one time, enjoying the shooting sports!
There is another very interesting aspect to this event and hundreds of others like it all over the country each year. It's not a government sponsored program. For the most part, it's a volunteer effort with unpaid coaches and guns and ammo donated by folks who want to encourage our youth to become involved in the shooting sports. I know some of these coaches and know just how much of their time, energy and money they contribute. They have invested themselves into something in which they truly believe.
Our local newspaper “The Southern Illinoisan” ran a front page story of the local shooting team that took 3rd place in the high over-all category. There was a color picture of the team and its coaches and the accompanying article listed each winner's name and his accomplishments.
“Just a waste of money!” Really?