A central Minnesota park is looking to tap into the growing popularity of archery by opening its first indoor archery range with hopes that it will become a regional attraction.
Last week, the Stearns County Board approved building the range at Mississippi River County Park, a 230-acre park along the riverfront in Rice, Minn., just north of St. Cloud.
The 12,000-square-foot range, which is scheduled to open in 2019, will have 20 to 24 lanes for archery shooting, making it one of the larger indoor ranges in the state.
There are fewer than 100 archery ranges in Minnesota. Of those, about 30 are indoors, mostly in small spaces in retail stores.
“We want to make this an archery destination for the state,” said Don Primley, president of T.H.E. Great River Archery Center, a nonprofit that’s building the range. “It’s really unique.”
The special public-private partnership between the county park system and the nonprofit will allow the range to be built at no cost to the county — or taxpayers. T.H.E. Great River Archery Center is raising funds to cover the estimated $500,000 construction cost and will maintain and run the range.
Primley said the facility won’t just give area archers a year-round option for practicing, but will draw archers of all ages from across the state and region. It also could be used to host state tournaments.
“It’s a triple win,” he said of the added amenity for area archers, students and the county.
In 2016, an Eagle Scout built an 11-target outdoor archery range in the northwest corner of Mississippi River County Park that has drawn crowds of users ever since. Park Director Ben Anderson said an average of 22 vehicles daily pulled into the range parking lot last summer, an indication of the steady use.
Primley said the nonprofit plans to open two more outdoor archery ranges in the park this summer.
The park is already popular for its 18-hole disc golf course, its forested hiking trails and the boat landing on the river, but it’s also drawing more archers as interest in the sport rises — especially among girls and women.
The outdoor range, at 41376 County Road 1 in Rice, is open to the public during park hours — from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
“In this area, the opportunity for indoor shooting and leagues is minimal,” Anderson said. “[The sport is] becoming bigger and bigger.”