WATERTOWN, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission received an update Friday about the governor-backed plan to build a state-of-the-art firearms complex northeast of Rapid City.

The first piece, a dirt-work contract, was awarded Thursday, according to John Kanta, who is overseeing the project’s construction for the state Wildlife Division.

Kanta, who spoke to the commission from his base in Rapid City, didn’t identify the successful bidder.

Four bids were received. Kanta said he was “very pleased” by the winning offer of $5.8 million. “We were expecting somewhere around $8 million,” he said.

The next piece, involving above-ground work and a well, will go out for bids later this year, according to Kanta.

He said ground will be broken this coming winter and the grand opening is planned for fall 2025.

Kanta was upbeat. “Really exciting times,” he told the commission. “This is going to be a really nice facility.” He expects that “thousands” of people a year will use the site, both from the local area and nationally. “We feel like we’re offering it all here,” he said.

Commissioner Jon Locken of Bath asked about one of the features, a bunker trap. “That’s kind of a new twist for us here,” Locken said. Kanta described it as “an upgrade” that was added to the original design. “On a future report, I’d like a little more information,” Locken said.

A minority of lawmakers two years ago kept the project from receiving state funding, despite support from Governor Kristi Noem, because the House couldn’t reach the necessary two-thirds majority. The state Department of Game, Fish and Parks proceeded with it anyway.

Commissioner Julie Bartling of Gregory asked Friday how much has been raised from non-government sources. Kanta said the total so far was $740,000 and the goal is $5 million.

“A bit of a ways to go yet,” he acknowledged.

The department meanwhile is seeking proposals for someone to serve as an independent fundraiser for the project. September 13 is the deadline for those offers.

“A lot of work has gone into this,” commission chair Stephanie Rissler of Vermillion said. “We look forward to hearing more details as we move forward.”