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Angie Wieck, Published August 26 2013

Ground broken for underground rifle range in West Fargo

WEST FARGO – Representatives of the Red River Regional Marksmanship Center broke ground Monday on a new 100-meter-long underground rifle range adjacent to its handgun range at 640 16th St. N.E.

The club has received multiple inquiries from the public about shooting rifles at the handgun range, which opened in 2009, said Don Hartwig, president of the marksmanship center.

But rifles are not allowed due the facility’s layout and its 50-foot range, he said.

The underground range will have six shooting lanes, each with its own shooting bench and target return system; tables for reloading; and range safety officers on duty at all times.

Former Congressman Rick Berg and Steve Scheel, CEO of Scheels All Sports, co-chaired the project’s steering committee and were both on hand for Monday’s ceremony.

Scheel said he was tapped to assist in the marksmanship center’s fundraising efforts years before the first range was built. While he was confident the group could raise the funds to build the facility, he was concerned about attracting enough shooters to earn enough income to make it operational.

Since then, the center has grown to more than 700 members. In addition to membership dues and fees from shooting groups and members of the public, the facility remains operational thanks to its entirely volunteer staff.

Scheel said he has enjoyed taking his grandkids to the handgun range, and is looking forward to personally using the rifle range.

“The new rifle range will offer a much-needed facility for our region, providing hunters the opportunity to test new guns, sight in scopes, try out new loads, and teach their children year-round in all conditions,” he said.

Berg said he was approached to join the committee after losing his bid for a seat in the U.S. Senate in November. Marksmanship center representatives took note when Berg expressed an interest in working with area nonprofits.

He said hunting and shooting skills are meant to be passed along through the generations.

“When my dad passed away about 12 years ago now, one of the things he said is that it’s our responsibility as a parent to pass on hunting and shooting to our children, and I took that to heart.” Berg said.

He said the new facility is a continued effort by the marksmanship center to get area youths and the public involved in the sport.

Hartwig said the Red River Regional Marksmanship Center plans to build the range without any debt thanks to a grant, sponsorships and donations from the community.

A majority of the funds have been secured for the $680,000 project thanks in part to a $300,000 grant from the state of North Dakota.

The range is slated to open in January.

For more information or to donate, call (701) 238-3693.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501