- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

SPARTA, Ill. (AP) - Target shooting has given an economic boost to the southern Illinois community of Sparta, where a shooting and recreation complex was established in 2006.

The World Shooting and Recreation Complex attracts about 15,000 people daily during the 10-day Grand American Trap Shooting Championships in August. As a result, the area gets a $10 million economic boost, complex executive director Art Ashbrook said.

Because lodging is in high demand, town residents open their houses to visitors, Sparta Chamber of Commerce Director Tori Paultler said. Retailers and restaurants also reap rewards from the championship, Paultler said.

Ashbrook said the effect goes beyond Sparta and Randolph County to the southern 12 to 19 counties. “We’re exposing the world to southwest and southern Illinois,” he said.

And it’s not just The Grand American that attracts people to the region.

The Scholastic Clay Target Program brings 750 high school students to the shooting complex in July, and Ashbrook estimates that has a similar economic impact.

“Weekend competitors - that is the backbone of any shooting sport,” Stu Wright, owner of Wright’s Inc., told The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan. “That is where most of the targets are thrown at the shooting complex - from recreational shooters.”

Wright, a gunsmith, said his business has seen a dramatic increase in visitors since the shooting complex went into operation.

The National Shooting Foundation says target shooting is a growing industry around the state. It says spending related to target shooting generated more than $570 million and helped provide 4,946 jobs in Illinois.

Wright, who is the Pinckneyville High School trap shooting coach, said youth target shooting has “grown phenomenally.” He points out that there are 12 trap shooting teams in the region.

“If you’re at a shooting event, you’re going to see two types of shooters - those under 20 and those over 40,” Wright said, so youth shooting is “going to be essential for the growth of the industry.”

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Information from: Southern Illinoisan, http://www.southernillinoisan.com

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