The City of Jonesboro and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission hope the new shooting sports complex will serve an educational purpose for Northeast Arkansas youth.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new sports complex at its location in East Jonesboro on Moore Rd.--just past the “Welcome to Jonesboro” sign going westbound on I-555.
Pat Fitts, director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said this facility can be a tool for pulling kids away from learning about gun safety through video games.
"They're going through this experience without learning one single thing about safe gun handling or the exhilaration of being involved in conservation through hunting,” Fitts said.
Mayor Harold Perrin spoke about the educational benefits of the new facility. He said that having the facility serve the educational needs of students is “what it’s all about."
Andy Watkins, a Junior at Arkansas State University, said he can relate to how kids in the community would benefit from the facility. Watkins said he was first introduced to trap shooting when he was in the seventh grade and has loved it. Since then, he's traveled across the state and country participating in the sport.
"To me, I benefited a lot," Wilkins said. "I learned a lot about sportsmanship from it and safety of gun handling. It gets you out of your area."
Watkins also said he is excited about having a local place where people can learn about the safe side of gun ownership and have fun.
"Jonesboro has not had anything like this around," said Watkins. He said normally he would have to travel to the AGFF range in Jacksonville to get his dose of action.
"Jonesboro is growing," Watkins said, "and we have a lot of people that really didn't grow up around shooting stuff. This is an area for them to get in and see what it's all about."
In January 2018, a $2 million grant was secured from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to go towards construction of the estimated $10 million complex.
Officials expect the first stage of construction to be completed in 2019.