SPARTA — “No matter how rich you become, how famous or how powerful, when you die the size of your funeral will still pretty much depend on the weather.”
― Michael Prichard
When there is nothing else to talk about, people often default to inane conversations about the weather. On the other hand, sometimes weather is critical.
Take the Grand American, wrapping up today at Sparta’s World Shooting and Recreational Complex. The event, which began Aug. 3, has benefited from the mild weather that has enveloped Southern Illinois for the past two weeks.
Participation is up 2-3 percent. That may or may not be directly attributable to the weather, but mild temperatures haven’t hurt.
“We’re up a little in all the events,” said Lyn Gipson, executive director of the Amateur Trapshooting Association and Grand American tournament manager. “Pre-squadding was up 10 percent, which helps. The shoot wasn’t up that much, but I think that’s an indication that more people are using it. Pre-squadding costs, so that’s more revenue for the ATA.
“We’ve had some breezy days, but not what I’d call windy days. It affects the scores some, but it hasn’t affected attendance. We don’t make much when they’re sitting out in their trailers and motor homes.”
And, there has been no rain.
“The shoot itself is up 2-3 percent,” Gipson said. “The very first day we were down a little bit. I don’t know why, but after that we’ve been up on nearly every event. If it doesn’t rain the rest of the week, we’ll be in great shape.
“That’s fine. We’re happy with that (2-3 percent increase). We can work with that. It will be a good Grand. It’s good for the area. We have 400-500 employees out here from this area, getting a little payday at the end of the summer.”
Gipson said he was also pleased with the contents of the Strategic Planning Report for the World Shooting and Recreational Complex that followed a 15-month study by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which owns the WSRC, and Southern Illinois University.
“There is some good stuff in there about non-shooting uses for the property,” he said. “Maybe it will put some focus on that and we’ll see more. It makes the property that much more valuable. What benefits us is more activity, the more valuable this property becomes, the more secure it becomes.”
The WSRC currently hosts the Grand American, the largest trapshooting event in the world, the U.S. Open and a number of smaller events.
“There is not a whole lot more we can do in terms of our type of shooting on the grounds, so if there is some kind of activity on the grounds and there are 300-400 people on the property it would be great,” he said.
Gipson speculated that non-shooting events held regularly on the WSRC grounds could result in increased economic activity for the region, resulting in additional lodging being built.
“I really think one of the factors that guides our attendance here is lodging,” he said. “When the facility was built people were like ‘It’s not that far to Fairview Heights.’ Well yes it is, it’s a pretty good drive back and forth up there, especially after a day of shooting. If there was more in the area, I think that would help the attendance at the Grand.”