Some cities have municipal liquor stores, others own community centers. In Maple Grove, it's a city-owned gun range that draws crowds.
Four years after the gun range reopened following a destructive fire, the city wants to expand the North Metro Range at a cost of $8 million to keep up with demand.
The range, while open to the public on Saturdays, is proving increasingly popular with law enforcement officers — ranging from local police to FBI agents — who use it weekly.
"We're nearly at capacity," Police Chief Eric Werner said. "We've seen the benefits of a high-quality facility."
In the past few years, gun ranges across the Twin Cities have seen a surge in interest from Minnesota's growing numbers of gun owners, which has led to the opening of new ranges across the metro area.
Most of the 400-some archery and gun clubs in Minnesota are privately owned. There are only a handful of public safety facilities in the metro area, such as Maple Grove's North Metro Range, or the South Metro Public Safety Training Facility jointly owned by Edina, Eden Prairie, Bloomington and the Metropolitan Airports Commission.
That may be changing. As Minnesota's 10,500 law enforcement officers are required to undertake more training, agencies say there's increased competition for training space and a need for more public safety-specific facilities, especially for smaller agencies outside the metro area.
A state Department of Public Safety report in 2009 said that the largest law enforcement agencies in Minnesota own or share indoor and outdoor firing ranges, while smaller agencies rely on gun clubs. The report recommended that the state consider funding regional facilities that many agencies can share.
A regional need
That's exactly what Woodbury and Cottage Grove want to do in the east metro. The police departments plan to build a $19 million facility that would include virtual training space and a shooting range. They will seek nearly $9.8 million in the 2018 state bonding bill to help fund the facility.
Woodbury and Cottage Grove police have to book space a year and a half in advance at area ranges — and even then, Cottage Grove Police Capt. Greg Rinzel said, there's no guarantee of getting in. Years ago, police would train at private gun ranges or even gravel pits. But training needs have grown and become more sophisticated, he said.
"Nationwide, these training facilities are all over," Rinzel said, adding that Minnesota hasn't kept pace. "We believe this is a state need, a regional need. We need this type of facility in our area."
Maple Grove city leaders also are putting in a request for $4 million in state bonding funds to help expand their gun range.
The facility, built in 1992, initially hosted firearms training for Maple Grove police and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office. Now the range is used by about 20 local, state and federal agencies including the FBI, Brooklyn Park and Plymouth police, emergency crews and law enforcement classes.
The Maple Grove facility reopened in 2013 after fire destroyed the building and was opened to the public that same year after being bombarded with residents' requests. A state law the year before was changed to require publicly funded ranges to open for youth gun training.
The revamped facility featured a redesign of the 12-lane shooting range in a $2.2 million renovation. It's open to the public from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Adding 17,000 square feet of space, Werner said, would provide another set of shooting lanes and more space for nonlethal firearms training for police. Rooms could be divided to represent a house in training scenarios.
"It's just a really good example where you have this need and you're able to bring agencies from all levels in," he said.