“Make your plans,” ATA executive director Lynn Gipson said.
Trapshooting operations at the Sparta complex, which is operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, was shuttered Oct. 1 because of the ongoing state budget spat, though the nine union workers employed at the site are still on the job.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources Chief of Staff Jason Heffley said it’s been “a rough six months.”
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Under a memorandum of understanding between IDNR and the trapshooting association, if the state doesn’t open the facility by April 15, the ATA and the state will begin negotiations to allow the ATA to host all shooting and camping events at the complex, including the Grand American.
It’s an understanding that’s been in place since October.
“It was done as an insurance policy. We always hoped and assumed that we would have a budget and therefore not need this,” Heffley said.
The memorandum of understanding contains no agreement terms. Heffley said that’s because “we cannot negotiate the terms before the April 15 date.”
Gipson said it’s an honor to host the Grand American at the Sparta complex.
“It’ll be another fantastic year in Sparta,” Gipson said.
The 2016 Grand American is scheduled to take place from Aug. 3-13.
According to figures released by State Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, 4,600 shooters participated in the Grand American in 2015. More than 16,000 people came to watch. The Grand American and the Scholastic Clay Target Program combined generated between $22 and 24 million economic impact on the region last year.
Costello said the impact events held at the complex “is unparalleled, and ensuring that they stay will provide stability to participants, vendors and businesses that rely on the money these events bring to Southern Illinois.”
Attendees at the announcement expressed concern that, while the 2016 shooting operations are back on target, operations for 2017 and onward remain in limbo.
Costello, Heffley and Gipson all agreed that before 2017’s shooting season becomes an issue, the state needs a Fiscal Year 2017 budget.
Heffley and Gipson agreed that they’d like not to repeat the worries that plagued them during the beginning of the current budget crisis.
Costello said it was impossible to predict what would come of future budget negotiations.