Shooting Sports Education Center aims to benefit the GS community

Chris Smith

In October of 2015, Georgia Southern University broke new grounds for the local air rifle and archery teams in Statesboro, Georgia when they opened the doors to their $5.8 million facility.

The Shooting Sports Education Center (SSEC) is a state-of-the-art instructional facility dedicated to teaching the public how to use archery and firearms. According to Gene Sherry, director of Campus Recreation and Intramurals, this is a 30,000-square foot facility with a 16 lane, 25-meter firing range, and a 16 lane, 25-meter archery center.

The SSEC is now home to the Georgia Southern rifle team and the intramural archery team. According to Matt Horst, director of the Shooting Sports Education Center, this facility is the first of its kind on a college campus.

There are other colleges with shooting sports centers on their campuses, but none are the size of the one at GS. At Michigan State University, they have a center with two indoor firing ranges and an archery center, but according to Horst, the archery center at MSU is smaller, and they are only allowed to shoot up to a .20 caliber firearm.

The project to begin developing the SSEC started in 2010 when the Georgia Department of Natural Resources approached GS. After the completion of the Recreation Activity Center at GS, the Georgia DNR proposed the idea of a shooting sports center to the University of Georgia and GS.

UGA was not interested in going forward with the opportunity, but after extensive research, GS came to the conclusion that this would be a facility that would benefit students.

“The challenges were part of the reason we wanted to put it here,” Sherry said. “I think we fear what we do not know, and I think it was an opportunity to provide education to the shooting sports.”

When referring to the SSEC, it should be noted that it is not only a place for firearms. The focus of this facility was in all shooting sports and the recreational opportunities these sports provide.

The women’s rifle team may benefit the most from this facility. According to Sherry, the SSEC is the finest facility within the Southern Conference. They use the same target and scoring system that was utilized in the London Olympics. The facility paid dividends resulting in the rifle team winning the air rifle championship in the SoCon this year.

“If you go behind the RAC and look at the cinder block building, that is where they started off shooting,” Brandy Clouse, sports supervisor for rifle, said. “There was no air conditioning, no heat and poor lighting. The shooting center has 16 lanes and is all electronic. There are some shooting centers the team travels to that have only eight lanes, and it takes eight hours to conduct a competition then they have to move the targets manually. Here when we host a competition, it takes four hours, and all of our targets are electronically controlled.”

This facility could be essential to the Georgia Southern community with the passing of the campus carry bill. For the second year in a row, Georgia lawmakers passed a bill to allow concealed firearms on public university campuses.

Governor Nathan Deal vetoed the bill the first time around, but with a few tweaks to the bill, there is a chance it will get passed this time. The bill has not yet been signed into law yet, and the future of the bill remains uncertain.

With a facility like the SSEC that provides courses and training exercises to maintain and utilize firearms properly, members of the GS community may feel more compelled to take advantage of their resources. The purpose of the SSEC is to teach safety regulations and make everyone feel safe.

“I think that having the shooting sports area would make me feel better,” Josiah Shipp, sophomore writing and linguistics major, said. “I feel like it would provide some structure and some stability and training if people made use of campus carry.”

Because the SSEC is in a school safety zone, all students and members of the community must become an Approved User before they can utilize the facility.

To become an Approved User, the person trying to use the facility must first fill out paperwork (including a waiver), watch a 13-minute video about the SSEC and the safety protocol, take a written test and practical test and pass a background check.

The goal of the SSEC is to become a training facility for athletes who want to participate in the Olympics for archery. There have been recent movies that involve the sport of archery, and its popularity is steadily increasing. If the sport continues to grow and the SSEC can continue to gain national recognition, then the possibilities for this facility can be endless.