LAND O'LAKES — Times are changing at Deer Creek Sporting Clays.
So are the faces and the names.
Roger and Cathy Gascoigne, who have operated the 240-acre facility for the past five years, marked their last day Sunday running the range.
A new management team, Mike Mezrah and Bill Arthur, will take over and give the facility a new name: Tampa Bay Sporting Clays.
The facility on Ehren Cutoff will reopen April 3 with two fully shaded sporting clays courses, each boasting 12 stations; renovated offices; a brand new entertainment pavilion; and new shooting stands, gun racks and benches.
Sportsmen are looking forward to the upgrades, but it's been a bittersweet goodbye for the Gascoignes.
"Some people have gotten emotional in the final days," said Roger Gascoigne, 65. "There have been a lot of great people that have come through here in our time. We've taken people that had never shot a gun before and made them into really good shooters through our women and kids clinics and things like that. We've seen families come out and spend time together, which is something we hope the new management will continue."
During the Gascoignes' tenure, the range raised more than $2 million for charity with various events.
The couple also formed countless personal relationships: Over the past five years, about 41,000 people filled out forms indicating they were visiting for the first time.
With all those new faces have come a lot of memories for the couple, something that they've come to appreciate.
"Ninety nine percent of this experience has been great, and very little in life is ninety nine percent good," Roger Gascoigne said.
"I think we'll miss the people and the wildlife out here the most. The events that we've held have benefited charities, and through that we've met a lot of really special people."
Knowing Sunday was the last day of operation for Deer Creek, a number of people made plans for a final shooting session that day.
"We've known Roger for years and we've been shooting here for years, so my son and I wanted to make sure we got out here and paid tribute to Roger by shooting one last time," Herb Donica said. "He's done such a great job running the place and I hope the new group doesn't change much because this is the prettiest course in all of central Florida."
The Gascoignes have new plans as they head into their retirement. Roger Gascoigne will go back to being a shooting coach. Cathy plans to publish a how-to e-book for shooting ranges that want to hold charity shoots.
"The idea of taking this on into our seventies was too much," Roger Gascoigne said. "The funny thing is that before we took on running this place, we used to shoot. We're looking forward to getting back to shooting. We've had four days off in five years so we're ready to move on."
And some Deer Creek shooters are looking forward to seeing some changes at the range.
"The white course could use some work, so maybe the new management will put some work into it," Brendan Clarke said. "I come over from St. Petersburg because this facility is really nice. Certain parts of it, though, could be more scenic, so the change may not be bad for the place."
David Rice can be reached at [email protected]