The recession took aim at the heart of Southern Nevada's construction industry, so a few of its members set their sights on a new career.
"The economy kind of tanked, and we all know what happened to the construction industry," said Brian Lake, a general contractor and one of several partners in The Range 702, a shooting range that opened Thursday at 4699 S. Dean Martin Drive.
The Range 702 is the latest in a fusillade of local gun-range startups. The 10,000-square-foot Machine Guns Vegas opened in February near Spring Mountain Road and Interstate 15 with a VIP lounge and scantily clad hostesses. Battlefield Vegas launched Oct. 1 on Industrial Road at Circus Circus Drive, offering a five-acre complex that replicates famous battles, including 1944's D-Day. And the 4,500-square-foot Strip Gun Club machine-gun range is scheduled to open this month on Las Vegas Boulevard just north of Sahara Avenue.
But The Range 702 is different. For one thing, it's bigger. Company representatives bill it as the largest indoor gun range west of the Mississippi, at 55,000 square feet of space with 25 lanes, compared with an industry average of 12,000 square feet and 12 to 15 lanes. Four of the range's lanes are PRISim suites with interactive video scenarios. The Range 702 also has a VIP room for up to 20 people, with a private back entrance, a pool table, big screen TVs and seven private lanes. The range sells guns and ammunition and offers gunsmithing services and classes ranging from firearms-permit courses to training for women's self-defense. There's even a cafe.
"We want customers to spend time here," said Mari Lake, a partner in the range and Brian Lake's wife.
Those customers will likely include both locals and tourists, and that client mix is why gun ranges are on the march here, Mari Lake said. The centers attract locals who want an alternative to shooting in the desert, as well as visitors looking for something different to do.
A local gun instructor who asked the paper not to name him said Asian tourists in particular like local gun ranges. Many Asian countries ban firearms, and tourists from the region are driving a big increase in automatic-gun rentals.
"It's nothing for them to drop $5,000 to $10,000 on ammunition," the instructor said. "It's not a once-in-a-lifetime thing for them, but it's definitely something they don't get to do very often, and they go crazy for it."
The Lakes' own experiences with gun ownership helped inspire The Range 702. Brian Lake bought his wife a gun at a local range about two years ago. Disappointed in the customer service, the Lakes decided they could do better.
About 200 people checked out the result of that inspiration at Thursday morning's grand opening. Attendees included Las Vegas Mayor Pro Tem Stavros Anthony and Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev. Both Heck and Anthony participated in the ribbon "shooting," using M4 rifles to shred the neon-yellow ribbon hanging in the lanes for the store's launch.
Before the ribbon shooting, Heck peppered a target at the end of a 25-yard lane with an M16.
"Go big or go home," he said.
The Lakes chose to go big when it came time to find a new line of work.
Before the recession, their general-contracting company, Lake Construction, mostly built commercial space. Among its projects: The 41,000-square-foot southwest Las Vegas corporate headquarters for Golden Gaming, a slot route operator that owns PT's Pubs and Sierra Gold taverns. The company also renovated Casino MonteLago at Lake Las Vegas for its 2011 reopening.
In converting a former Cloud Carpets warehouse to The Range 702, the partners have likely finished their last construction project. Now, they'll focus on expanding The Range 702. They plan to look first at potential stores in Orlando and Nashville in the next couple of months. Locations in other cities will take on local area codes, so Orlando's outpost would be called The Range 407. Nashville's would be The Range 615.
The company is also pursuing a five-star rating from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which would make it a gun-range version of the Mandarin Oriental or the Wynn Tower Suites. The foundation evaluates ranges on appearance, customer service, management, amenities and community relations. On top of adding amenities such as the restaurant and the VIP lounge, The Range 702 is supporting Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada, giving the charity 20 percent of its proceeds in October. It's holding a gun giveaway in the month, entering anyone who spends more than $50. Costs at the range start at $20 for an hour of shooting.
Hiring is also on the agenda. The Range 702 has 45 employees, with plans to hire at least 20 more in areas including safety training, retail workers and kitchen staff.
Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison@review journal.com or 702-380-4512. Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.