Massive Private Indoor Shooting Range Planned for I-25/34
Loveland June 11, 2013
USA Liberty Arms is planning to build one the country's largest indoor shooting ranges and training facilities in the southeast corner of I-25/U.S. 34 intersection. Just the underground range equipment will cost over $3.5 million dollars which includes 50-60 lanes for shooters using state of the art technology.
Technically located within Johnstown city limits, the facility will be just south of the Bonefish Grill on Highway 34 less than a mile east of I-25 and a stone's throw outside McWhinney's Centerra developments. The new state of the art facility may halt City of Loveland plans to develop a regional training facility and indoor shooting range hoping to draw the Larimer County Sheriff's Department and other area law enforcement agencies seeking to share costs in a regional training facility.
According to Liberty Arms' plans submitted to Johnstown, "Liberty Arms Institute will not only provide a large selection of guns, accessories and outdoor gear but also a full restaurant, multiple classrooms for training and education and a state of the art underground shooting range, all within a completely indoor facility, fully secure, environmentally safe and virtually noise-free facility."
The building will house 50,000 square feet of retail, classrooms and offices and another 50,000 square feet of underground 50-60 lane shooting range. A second phase is also being proposed to double the project's indoor area by adding an additional 100,000 square feet to accommodate a unique indoor shotgun range for trap/skeet shooting. By the end of the second phase the 200,000 square foot project will cover approximately 15 acres. Action Target Inc. headquaters in Provo Utah, will be the range contractor and has built smaller but similar facilities for the U.S. Border Patrol, Las Vegas Police Department, Beverly Hills, California Police and many others. Lane Ashby, Action Target's range consultant, presented the plans to Jownstown's Planning Commission last month.
Former Agilent Campus Not Eligible For The Investment
While USA Liberty Arms currently operates a facility in Ft. Collins, it could not consider locating in Loveland's former Agilent Campus, an ideal location that would not have required constructing new buildings, for the multi-million retail establishment that will generate millions in future sales and use tax revenues. According to one potential investor who was solicited to invest in the project,
"Loveland's Mayor and some on council are not friendly to this industry. They specifically forbid anyone from our industry from leasing the former Agilent property and tied-up Loveland's only shooting range in years of litigation even refusing to let the police train there or allowing them to expand."
As reported by LovelandPolitics in December of 2011, Loveland's City Council voted to impose a deed restriction on the former Agilent campus in south Loveland which prohibits use of the property for "gun sales" describing it along with another group of businesses as "undesirable" for the property. (city's sales agreement Exhibit E "Deed Restrictions")
In late 2011, many Loveland residents overlooked the city's strict deed restrictions banning various forms of commerce on the old Agilent campus in anticipation of a large aerospace employer locating in the facility. However, after nearly two years of failed efforts to attract the high-tech clean energy or aerospace employers promised by CAMT (city's former partner) or the current owners, some in Loveland are questioning whether the city's meddling may have prevented the state's next largest firearms training facility and sporting center from locating in Loveland.
Since 2007 the indoor gun range business has been growing by over 6% annually even in a down economy. Analysts at IBIS say it is even bigger than the golf craze of the 1980's and don't expect demand to decrease anytime soon. Cities and counties across the country have been revamping local zoning ordinances to accommodate indoor ranges that were previously only allowed in heavy industrial or entertainment zones. The Mayor of Las Vegas attended a nationally covered opening of a range on the Las Vegas Strip (to draw more tourism) while cities across Georgia, Florida, Texas, Arizona to California scramble to attract what they see as a "destination" that brings in local tax dollars by drawing shooters from surrounding areas.
The indoor range industry's relatively strong economic performance over the past five years is attributable to the combination of increasing gun sales at the same time outdoor shooting locations are being closed. Larimer County, for example, recently joined Adams, Jefferson and Boulder Counties in talks with the U.S. Forrest Service to discuss restrictions of outdoor shooting on area forest lands. As outdoor shooting areas decrease, gun enthusiasts seek indoor ranges as one of the few places they can still legally discharge firearms.
Mayor Afraid of Constituents Owning Guns?
According to city sources, Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez has asked City Manager Bill Cahill to ensure the rear doors to the council chambers are securely locked during council meetings from fear that a gun wielding citizen entering unseen from the rear. In addition, Mayor Gutierrez has sought armed police presence at various public hearings out of fear the "gun culture" in Loveland may be present at public hearings. While keeping his views on guns fairly low-profile and out of public, Gutierrez has been a city force behind constructing a government funded shooting facility for use only by police to limit use of the privately operated Front Range Gun Club in east Loveland.
In describing the city's plans to a constituent last month while responding to questions raised by a previous LovelandPolitics article about the Liberty Arms project potentially landing in Centerra, Gutierrez explained,
"The only Firing Range Project I am aware of is the one being explored by the City of Loveland for our Police Department. The long term goal is for this to be more than a Firing Range, and could possibly be a Regional Training Facility. The three sites being considered are not in Centerra. One site is the vacant land owned by the City at the Police and Courts building. The second site is at the Airport. The third site may not be viable, that is the property owned by the Colorado Youth Outdoors at Highway 392 and I-25. That site would be considered only if it became a Regional facility."
It is unlikely the City of Loveland could lure neighboring law enforcement agencies away from the Liberty Arms facility given the significant capital expenditure required to build a competitive facility. In the meantime, Loveland's largest vacant commercial property on south Taft Ave. (former Agilent campus) remains largely vacant despite years of spending and effort by the City of Loveland to identify a desirable tenant.