Aug 22, 2022 - News

Game and Fish aiming for NWA

Illustration of a shooting range target but the bullseye is a dollar sign.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A proposed gun range is poised to pit NWA cities and residents against one another for the honor to host the attraction.

What's happening: Director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) Austin Booth said at the Northwest Arkansas Council's annual meeting in July that his agency wants to build a top-shelf sport shooting complex in this corner of the state.

  • AGFC will seek competitive requests for proposal from any combination of public, private and/or commercial entities.

The big picture: One study estimates $16.9 billion was spent on recreational shooting in the U.S. in 2016. Another calculates that target shooting contributed $21.2 billion to the country's GDP in 2020, with $205 million of that in Arkansas.

  • Of note: With 15 manufacturers located here, AGFC says the state is No. 4 in the U.S. for economic output per capita in the firearms and ammunition industry.

Why it matters: In addition to serving nearly a million Arkansans, the range would be another notch in NWA's strategy to attract tourists and increase their stay time with outdoor and sporting attractions.

Threat level: Booth is up front about the issue of gun violence. He sees a facility like this as a contribution to responsible gun ownership. It would help people "foster their interests and firearms — not in the dark, not in isolation — but in the light of day along with their neighbors," he told Axios.

  • "[AGFC's] obligation is to provide hunters and recreational shooting enthusiasts with the public access they need to become safer, more responsible citizens and outdoorsmen," he said.

State of play: While NWA's five largest cities have interest in the amenity, representatives from Springdale and Fayetteville told Axios they don't have the land.

  • Steve Cox, who heads economic development with the Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce, said he's waiting to review the RFP before any decisions are made.
  • A spokesperson for Siloam Springs told us the city wouldn't pursue the RFP.
  • Representatives from Bentonville didn't respond to multiple inquiries from Axios.

This means the proposal will likely be pursued by private landowners.

What they're saying: "We would sure support it, should available land be identified," Doug Sprouse, mayor of Springdale, told Axios in an email.

  • "We could also participate at some level, if it would meet our [police department] qualifying needs. Either way, it's a great project and we would love to see it in or near Springdale," he said.

Details: While the RFP isn't yet public, a brochure outlines some requirements for the range, including:

  • The lot must be at least 150 acres with a depth of 400-450 yards.
  • The location must allow for north/northeastern orientation for all-day shooting.
  • There must be minimal residential development nearby.
  • It should have access to public infrastructure, including roads and utilities.

Ideally, the site will be less than a 30-minute drive from NWA, Booth told Axios. He used Springdale as a hypothetical center of the region.

What's next: The RFP will be posted on the AGFC's website by the end of August, Booth told Axios.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios NW Arkansas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More NW Arkansas stories

No stories could be found

NW Arkansaspostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios NW Arkansas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more