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Mid-Michigan community stays active in winter through shooting sports

Patrons training in the archery range at the Demmer Center.
Christian Perrino
Patrons training in the archery range at the Demmer Center.

The Lansing area has two shooting facilities, Michigan State’s Demmer Center and the Rose Lake Shooting Center in Bath Township, for year-round practice in shooting and archery.

Staying active during the colder months is important in Michigan, as the snowy and dark days can be depressing. Most think of basketball, hockey and skiing as ways to have fun. Add two East Lansing area shooting facilities to the list of ways to have fun.

The Demmer Shooting Sports and Education Center at the south end of Michigan State’s campus and the Rose Lake Shooting Range in Bath Township have served the Lansing area for several decades - even during the winter months.

The Demmer Center, although it is open to the general public, it is typically used by members of the Spartan community. The facility is used by MSU student shooting sports organizations, including smallbore, air rifle, and archery as well as academic programs in shooting sports, law enforcement, and related programs.

Demmer has both indoor and outdoor ranges, but only the indoor one is open during the winter. The facility made some changes including some repairs and completely replacing the fire suppression system, while it was closed due to COVID-19 in early 2020, over a span of four months.

Demmer Center Instructor Glen Bennett said the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the center can still be felt today, although he is optimistic.

“A lot of our kids are not able to shoot tournaments because of fear of the spread of the virus,” said Bennett. “But now COVID’s getting a little bit better, we seem to be a little bit more relaxed, we have it more under control, everything seems to be good.”

He said the pandemic made the facility’s patrons more appreciative and they were eager to get back after the shutdown due to the pandemic.

“During the summertime, we were able to shoot outside which was beautiful,” said Bennett.

The Center was founded by John Demmer, a Michigan State alumnus who attended in the 1940s, through contributions by him and his wife.

The center offers both archery and firearms training. It has also received numerous honors and awards, including recognition from the Paralympic Sport Club Excellence Program. Bennett also has received recognition and awards from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Assembly.

Another popular shooting range in the area is the Rose Lake Shooting Range located in Bath Township, north of East Lansing. It is staffed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The facility offers rifle/pistol, hand trap and archery ranges.

Dennis Fox, the DNR section manager, oversees the operations at the facility.

It is open five days a week and only indoor ranges are available during the winter. The facility continues to have COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

“MIOSHA [Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration] guidelines still require us to wear masks indoors and hand sanitizer is placed at all ranges,” said Fox. “We encourage our customers to bring their own sanitizer and disinfectant, but we always supply just in case.”

While the pandemic isn’t considered as much of a concern as previously, these businesses are limited at the moment when it comes to activities available and operating hours.

On top of this, just like many other businesses, these facilities are understaffed, adding onto the struggles they faced early on in the pandemic. Because the sport is mostly seasonal, it is even more difficult for these businesses to get back on track financially.

While it is important for these businesses to stay afloat financially, it is just as important that their customers feel safe. While these businesses have adjusted business hours due to the winter season, they have also had to adjust due to shortage of staff.

There are also fewer activities offered during the winter as compared to the summer, and they hope that this will not be a problem in getting them back on track with their financial goals.

The hope is that because customers missed going to the facilities so much, they will patronize them more often than they had before, in turn helping out these businesses during these still trying times.

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