TARPON SPRINGS — A nearly 60,000-square-foot indoor gun range touted as one of the largest and most technologically advanced in the southeastern United States has crossed the first hurdle to approval here.
Reload Gun Range would feature 45 shooting lanes — seven of them at 100 yards, 18 at 25 yards and 20 at 15 yards — plus a full tactical range where law enforcement could train.
Plans call for a cafe, gunsmith service, classroom space and a 10,000-square-foot store that would sell everything from guns and ammunition to safes, hunting equipment, archery supplies and clothing.
Developers hope to start construction by June on the 57,533-square-foot facility, plus two 5,500-square-foot storage warehouses and 177 parking spaces, on 4 acres at 40050 U.S. 19, north of Klosterman Road.
Reload Gun Range scored city staff approval this week. The project will go to the planning and zoning board March 17 and to the Tarpon Springs City Commission for a final vote April 15.
The developer and city staff are planning a meeting with neighbors March 26.
During the design phase, developers toured a dozen gun ranges, evaluating pros, cons and the latest technology.
Elements they've incorporated into Reload's design include a high-tech ventilation system to filter gun smoke residue from the air, concrete walls for soundproofing and safety, machinery that automatically collects bullet fragments for recycling, and a room where police and the public can practice lifelike scenarios.
"We definitely worked hard to make sure it's the safest gun range around and the most technologically advanced," said David McComas, president of European Equities, the Clearwater-based developer. "This gun range is going to be a destination for gun enthusiasts, law enforcement and anybody in the general public that wants the opportunity to shoot and practice in a facility that's state of the art."
City officials are pleased that the project is planned for a property that has attracted transients and has blighted a city gateway. For a decade, a dilapidated Days Inn motel and IHOP restaurant sat empty on the property, drawing complaints from residents and nearby merchants.
The Reload developer would demolish the buildings and hopes to open the range by early 2015, landing the property back on city tax rolls and creating about 25 to 40 jobs, officials said.
"It's an area that we've been trying to attract more businesses, more sit-down restaurants, more shopping centers to," said city economic development manager Karen Lemmons. "This could be an opportunity for us to gain some better visibility for some of the other parcels that are available."
At nearly double the size of an unrelated shooting range proposed and subsequently scrapped last month in Seminole, developers say Reload would fill demand in North Pinellas as well as Pasco.
But City Manager Mark Lecouris, a former Tarpon police chief, said he believes the reach will stretch far beyond that.
"After 30 years in law enforcement, this looks like . . . this'll be one of the best facilities in the whole region," he said. "This looks absolutely first class, top notch. With people coming from all over, it'll be a real economic boon for the U.S. 19 corridor."
Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153, email@example.com or on Twitter @KeyonnaSummers.