By Srianthi Perera
After four years of trying to establish an archery range in Gilbert, Sandra Reynolds has hit her target.
The founder of the nonprofit Gilbert Archery has finalized an agreement with the town to transform a nearly 3-acre area of crumbled asphalt in Freestone Park into an archery range. The spot is across the street from Freestone Recreation Center.
It will be Gilbert’s first archery range.
The 10-lane range will be ready by February and the club will begin offering classes in March through the Gilbert Parks and Recreation Department. All equipment will be supplied.
“Since our goal is to grow the sport of archery, we are excited to be offering at least 15 free one-hour classes throughout the year so anyone can come out and give archery a try,” said Reynolds, a Gilbert resident.
John Kennedy, recreation manager in the town, said it will be a “good-sized” range, not outfitted for large tournaments but suitable for introductory and training exercise classes.
Kennedy said the range will be created and operated at no cost to the town. According to the agreement, Gilbert will lease the land to the club for an annual fee of $1 for the next five years and will receive 40 percent of the gross revenue from the classes. Also, the club is to deposit 10 percent of any gross annual revenue over $40,000 for improvements to the range or to restore the property to its original condition in the future.
Reynolds described it as “a great collaboration.” She said that the town worked with the club to find a spot that was open enough to provide the safety distances needed while being small enough for the club to afford to make needed improvements. Among other locations considered were Nichols Park and McQueen Park, both of which were discarded due to safety concerns.
Gilbert Archery’s improvements at Freestone Park will include fencing, security, signage, painting of archery lines to designate the lanes, shade canopy and storage facilities. The club will also provide insurance.
To maintain a high level of safety, the range will only be open at scheduled times when a certified range master is on site. In addition to classes and activities, there will be about 100 hours of open free shooting.
The sport of archery is on the upswing, according to USA Archery, formed in 1879 to foster and promote the sport and the National Governing Body for the Olympic and Paralympic sport.
In 2009, USA Archery had a membership of 1,257 adults and 890 youth, compared to 6241 adults and 5,376 youth enrolled in 2017. Overall club membership was 360 in 2009, compared to 954 in 2017.
Among the factors that can be attributed to its growth, the most notable is the Hollywood spotlight on the sport with movies such as the “Hunger Games” trilogy, “Brave” and “The Avengers,” said Sarah Bernstein, spokeswoman for USA Archery.
Additionally, the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games have had a significant impact, with archery as the most watched sport of the first week of the 2012 Games and one of the top two of the first week in 2016, according to reports from NBC, she said.
Arizona has almost a thousand registered archers, many of whom compete on a national level, according to Reynolds. Among them is her daughter Danielle, who is in the third place position on the U.S. archery team and a level 3 NTS USA Archery coach.
Reynolds herself is a level 4 NTS USA Archery coach, which enables her to teach beginners to Olympic level archers, train coaches and judge competitions.
The numbers in the sport are increasing but facilities are not keeping up.
In Chandler, Paseo Vista Recreation Area has an archery range, but it’s all but impossible to secure a time, said Reynolds, who teaches one archery program there, for Gilbert’s Lincoln Prep Academy.
Gilbert Archery, established in 2015, is coming undone because of a lack of venues for members to play. Current membership stands at eight.
Reynolds said the new range in Gilbert will be used to grow the sport in the town.
“It’s going to open up so many new archery opportunities, yet we’re considering this to be a starting point,” she said. “We’re hoping that it will be used to capacity in around five years, then we can move to a larger area where we can host tournaments and more events.”
Details: gilbertarchery.com and the Gilbert Archery Facebook page.