STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - Georgia Southern University officially opened their Shooting Sports Education Center Thursday.
The $5.8 million facility took years to bring to reality, combining the land, the money, and political support.
The university worked with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, City of Statesboro, and a private foundation to build and equip it. The center includes 16 range lanes each for archery and firearms.
"It certainly is innovative", explained DNR Commissioner Mark Williams. "The university put up the land, we built the building and it's here to serve a range of citizens."
As part of DNR's $3.3 million portion, the center is open for high school rifle and archery teams to train and could help host meets and tournaments. School leaders say both sports are emerging in Georgia.
"The state of Georgia had to break up its state meet into several regionals because of the turnout," noted Gene Sherry, executive director of the university's Campus Recreation and Intramurals department.
The center also serves as home for the university's NCAA women's rifle team and they've been using it for a month or so.
"Our scores are already going up because we're in a comfortable environment and it's similar to where we shoot in competition," explained team member Emmy Johnson.
Sherry said the university's long term goal is to convince the U.S. Olympic rifle team or archery teams to make this their training center.
"It will take a couple of years to present and it will take some commitment from the community," he said. "But it's within our reach."
The center is already attracting students who'd like to be on the Olympic team. Bethany Bogan came to Southern, in part, to continue competing on an archery team.
"Every archer dreams of competing in the Olympics," she said with a smile.
The center is open to non-university personnel for a fee. However, those wishing to use the firearms range must fill out paperwork and undergo a background check.
For more info, visit the GSU website here.