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Clark County hopes $30,000 marketing plan will solve shooting park’s money woes

Officials are hoping a boost in advertising can be the silver bullet that stops the county’s gun range from bleeding into the red.

The Clark County Shooting Complex has lost money every year since its 2009 opening.

At the time, county officials anticipated that the world-class facility would be a big draw and not stay in the red permanently. That hasn’t happened, but they recently embarked on a marketing push to boost the park’s fortunes.

It’s a $30,698 effort to turn the tide for a shooting complex that has cost taxpayers $2.85 million in the past four fiscal years. The highest loss was $1.1 million in 2013, and the lowest was $367,992 in 2012.

It’s also the first full-scale marketing campaign the county has undertaken for the complex, and comes years after the park’s first manager called for such an effort.

Because the campaign is just starting, officials don’t know how effective it will be in boosting visitor numbers and revenues.

However, complex manager Steve Carmichael said the budget picture could be brighter for this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

“I would say the way things are looking right now, we might be within $100,000 of breaking even,” he said. “We still have a chance. We’re going to be very close.”

Another key is attracting league competition, which brings large groups to the complex, Carmichael said.

As for why the marketing is happening now instead of earlier, he attributed that to the tight budgets of the recent recession.

“It just hadn’t been seriously considered because the budget was so tight and when this facility opened, it was a couple years after the bubble burst,” Carmichael said.

A widespread attack

The county will use billboards and print advertising. The billboards — six are digital and five are vinyl posters — cost $10,175 for the 30-day period.

The cost of newspaper ads is $13,248. Advertising in three national trade publications costs another $7,275.

Other efforts don’t require paying outside vendors, with the work completed by the county.

For example, the county is using McCarran International Airport’s digital billboard network to run information about the shooting complex when unsold spots are available. Ads also appear on digital boards throughout the airport concourses and above the taxi lines outside the baggage claim area.

A 30-second public service announcement — produced by county staff — now airs on the county’s CCTV Channel 4 and on Facebook and YouTube. Printed brochures have gone out to community and recreation centers and local gun shops. The county also will send an electronic newsletter to customers.

Gina Olivares, spokeswoman for the complex, said the campaign’s goal is to get a wide variety of people to the facility, from children to couples and families.

“Our range caters to families who want to come out for the day and shoot together,” she said. “It runs the gamut.”

The 2,900-acre complex at 11357 N. Decatur Blvd., has two outdoor archery ranges, sporting clays, a shotgun center with trap and skeet fields, a rifle-pistol center and an education center.

The complex is marketing itself based on recognition from a national firearms trade organization. The National Shooting Sports Foundation in 2010 awarded it a five-star rating, making the complex one of just 11 outdoor shooting facilities in the United States to get the recognition.

The complex’s largest shooting event since opening day, the Ducks Unlimited Continental Shoot, had about 475 signed up to participate on Saturday and today.

In the run-up “fun shoots” before the main events, about 100 shooters were at the complex on Thursday and about 300 were at the complex on Friday.

The complex is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesdays. On Thursdays through Sundays, the complex is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Starting March 1, hours on Thursdays will be longer and the complex will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. It’s typically closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Fees are $9 for the rifle and pistol center and $7 to use the archery range, with no fee for children. The archery range’s 3-D course, available on weekends only, costs $10. Fees at the shotgun center vary based on the target type, with discounts for children.

Rental equipment also is available.

four years in, patience wearing thin

Marketing the shooting complex isn’t a new idea. What’s new is that it’s happening.

In 2007, when the complex planning was underway, a marketing plan was formed.

“It had called for an aggressive marketing plan when we opened,” said Don Turner, who was manager at the facility until 2010.

Businesses typically need five years to start turning a profit, Turner said, calling expectations for the complex to make money in three years unrealistic.

“It’s too bad they waited four years to do it,” Turner said of the marketing.

Besides basic marketing, boosting participation in programs, including leagues, and getting out the word about them are keys to success, he said.

Turner also said he understands that the economy was down when the complex opened, and government budget cuts often starts with marketing when revenues drop.

Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak has expressed concerns about the shooting complex using taxpayer dollars. The plan was for it to be self-sufficient by now, he said, adding he hopes the advertising works.

“Quite frankly, the proof is going to be in the pudding when we get to budget time,” Sisolak said.

Commissioners have mixed views on the shooting complex. Sisolak, for example, said hiring a private company to run the complex is an idea worth exploring if it continues to lose money.

Commissioner Tom Collins, a big supporter of the complex, said at a commission meeting in November that the key is marketing.

Sisolak noted that the complex is for a specific audience. He said advertising in trade magazines makes sense, given who they reach.

In contrast, billboards reach a wider group of people who aren’t necessarily shooters.

“My mother drives by the billboards,” Sisolak said. “She’s not going out there.”

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781. Follow @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.

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