When you think of 4-H you may think of its livestock, baking, crafts and public speaking programs. But one of the biggest parts of 4-H is now shooting sports.
From bows and arrows to pistols and rifles, thousands of kids are taking aim at this fast growing hobby. The problem is this sport needs a lot of room. That's where a new four million dollar facility in Brookings comes in. And the new Outdoor Adventure Center will offer so much more than target practice.
Brookings High School Junior Courtney Anderson has shattered archery records and has even been invited to a Junior Olympic camp. The only problem is: where to practice.
"It is very hard to find places. Right now if I want to do any precision indoor distance shooting, like 70 meters or even 20 meters or yards, I have to go down to Yankton," 16-year-old Courtney Anderson said.
In a few months, Anderson and her friend and fellow archer, Hailey Schroeder, will have a new place to practice and compete. The new 4-H Outdoor Adventure Center in Brookings currently under construction will house Olympic-sized archery lanes.
"We can have 40 lanes of shooting, actually 50 if we need to. We can 50 archers lined up here shooting, 40 archers in an Olympic arrangement, shooting archery. We can have tournaments, host tournaments in Brookings," 4-H Shooting Sports Instructor Jim Adkins said.
"Not having a permanent range in the past has kind of been hard, but with a new place like this; we're going to be able to come here all the time and shoot and honestly it's going to help me a lot more in my shooting and becoming a better shooter and I'm so excited for that," 14-year-old Hailey Schroeder said.
"Our goal is to get as many kids involved in archery as we can," Nancy Swanson, Executive Director of the South Dakota 4-H Foundation said.
It's not just archery; this 30,000 square foot building will house other ranges for 4-H shooting sports.
"Air pistol, air rifle, 22 pistol, 22 rifle," Swanson said.
While all the shooting sports will take place inside this building once it is complete; the idea is to get kids outside to get them active in the 135 acre Dakota Nature Park.
"So they can learn about things in the facility and they can head out the back door to the Dakota Nature Park and do it," Swanson said.
The Dakota Nature Park consists of a series of ponds for fishing, mountain bike trials and cross country ski trails.
"We've rather have them in the woods than on the sofa. And our tag line is 'get active, stay active;' because we know a lot of children are not outside anymore," Swanson said.
The Center's leaders say not only will the outdoor programs and shooting sports benefits the kids who participate, but they hope the Outdoor Adventure Center can be a destination for everyone.
"That's really our goal, to get kids and some members of their family, parents or grandparents, to come out here; get together have fun and creative memories; that's what we want to do," Swanson said.
"Not only do we have the youth component, which is our primary focus, but we really are inviting all ages to be involved in the outdoor adventure center of South Dakota," Adkins said.
Making it one of the only facilities of its kind in the upper Midwest.
The Outdoor Adventure Center will also have a TV studio for the national PBS show Nature Adventures with Terry and Todd.