Originally created 01/22/05

County may be out of range



It looks as though Columbia County might no longer be in range for a world-class Olympic shooting complex that would have been built at Baker Place Road Landfill.

Bob Mitchell, the chief executive officer of USA Shooting, said Friday that he expects a final decision will be made within the next 60 days. But he also said his organization is leaning heavily toward locating a new Olympic shooting range complex in Kerrville, Texas.

"The proposal from San Antonio, from Kerrville, that seems to be falling in place," Mr. Mitchell said in a phone interview. " ... It isn't signed, sealed and delivered, but it's getting there."

A month ago, Mr. Mitchell confirmed that the site of the Columbia County landfill, which will close later this year, was one of three top locations that USA Shooting was considering for a complex. It could have become an Olympic training site and the host for a World Cup shooting event along with six to eight annual national events.

Mr. Mitchell had estimated the annual economic impact from the complex to be at least a couple million dollars.

The third site considered was Merced, Calif., a town 110 miles southeast of San Francisco with about 69,805 residents.

Kerrville is 62 miles northwest of San Antonio, and according to Census figures had a population of 45,311 in 2003. Columbia County is estimated to have about 101,000 residents.

In December, Mr. Mitchell said USA Shooting, which is based in Colorado Springs, Colo., and is the national governing body for the Olympic shooting sports, was "very interested" in the Columbia County site. At the time, he said his organization might consider bringing world-class events to a complex there for the next six to 10 years if the community could show a plan to build the necessary facilities.

On Friday, Mr. Mitchell said Kerrville seemed to have taken the most proactive approach on the issue.

"I attended a meeting (with Kerrville officials) and they had representatives from the governor's office, federal congressmen, state congressmen," Mr. Mitchell said. "Bankers stood up and said, 'These guys want to write a check for whatever it takes. I'll back it.' So, that looked pretty strong to me."

He said he had talked to Tammy Stout, the executive director of the Greater Augusta Sports Council, a couple of times, but "I've kind of come to the conclusion that they (Augusta-area officials) are probably not quite as enthused as they were at one time," he said.

Mr. Mitchell said Kerrville already has bought some electronic target systems, has begun grading land and building ranges. He said the town also already has a shooting complex in place.

"It's a matter of expanding them," he said.

Mrs. Stout said Friday afternoon that she had not heard about USA Shooting's heavy interest in Kerrville.

She said a footprint for a Columbia County site has been in the works and that private funding for such a venture couldn't be raised until the footprint was completed. Officials said that footprint was to be finished by February.

Mrs. Stout said she had been told by USA Shooting that there was no rush on the issue, but on Friday she said she would be contacting the organization again to take one more stab at the opportunity for Columbia County.

"We definitely will," she said. "It's unfortunate that it appears they may have set a deadline ... but obviously, we will be in contact at the first of the week with them."

Reach Preston Sparks at 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

What's next:

USA Shooting officials are expected to make a final decision on the location of a new headquarters within the next 60 days.



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