PSSA executive director plans $1.5M expansion of Elysburg gun club

PSSA executive director plans $1.5M expansion of Elysburg facility
Published: 6/16/2017 10:00 AM
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PSSA executive director plans $1.5M expansion of Elysburg facility

BY HAROLD RAKER

FOR THE NEWS-ITEM

ELYSBURG — The appearance of the Valley Gun and Country Club’s trapshooting facility was much different when Skip Klinger began shooting there as a teenager in the 1970s.

If Klinger has his way, the look of the Ralpho Township facility, host to the Pennsylvania State Shotgunning Association’s state championships again this week, will undergo an amazing transformation over the next two or three years.

Klinger, in his third year as the championship’s tournament director, and first as executive director of the PSSA, is ready to take on a project that he only dreamed about a couple of years ago.

If it all comes to fruition, this already world-class facility will be open year-round to not only trapshooting, but skeet and sporting clays. It will employ an estimated 15-20 full-time people, aside from the 200 part-timers that make the state shoot run every June.

“It would be open full-time, 52 weeks a year, and be the PSSA’s Northeast Shooting Complex, providing shotgun shooting programs for trap, sporting clays and skeet,” he said.

Klinger said the new venture would add several major events to the already impressive schedule at the local club.

One of those would involve a competition by the Association of College Unions International, which conducts a series of 10 shoots throughout the U.S.

“They’d like to bring the one that comes to the eastern U.S. here and it’s a three-day match for about 350 college kids that participate in trap, skeet and sporting clays,” Klinger said.

Last year’s eastern event was held in November at the Prince George’s Sportsman’s Club in Glenn Dale, Md.

In addition, the Scholastic Clay Target Program, which already holds its trap state championships in Elysburg, would like to make it a weekend event and shoot all three disciplines at the local facility, all in one weekend.

He said the number of employees would greatly increase during the state shoots, but probably not by as much as it does for the trap shooting championship.

“The other disciplines are not as labor intensive as trap shooting,” he added.

“The timetable is two years, but it doesn’t have to be completed. But we will be building the vendor building this fall and then build the target building and then institute sporting clays and then skeet,” he said.

“That will obviously depend upon the economic issues and how long it takes to raise the money,” he said. “It will have to be an economic engine to raise the money and take us forward into the project.”

Klinger noted that, with the name change from the Pennsylvania State Sportsman’s Association last year, also came a change in the organizational status to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. That will make it easier to obtain the funds, about $1.5 million, needed for the expansion, he said.

To this point, only trapshooting has been done at Valley, although, Klinger said, many trap shooters also shoot skeet, just generally not competitively.

But both skeet and sporting clays are growing in popularity and, Klinger said, they need to add both at the Elysburg venue to be able to have a complete shooting complex.

The expansion plans call for a large vendor building that would allow all the vendors to work under one roof, as opposed to the current situation, where they operate out of trailers, or canopies and tents.

Klinger said previously that there will be eight skeet ranges and three sporting clay courses. The skeet ranges would likely be portable and placed in front of trap banks No. 1 or No. 2. The sporting clay courses would be on the lower bank beyond the practice traps in a wooded area.

He said there will be fulltime employees available to help anyone who wants to shoot in any of the three disciplines.

Klinger noted that the facility will not include any indoor shooting areas, but will only close for heavy snowfalls, like the one that dumped 30 inches on the grounds in March.

“If you get snow like that, the sporting clays will be shut down,” he said.

He said sporting clays is the fastest growing of the disciplines. He said that if you talk to gun manufacturers and dealers as well as others in the industry, they will tell you that 70 percent of new business comes from sporting clay shooters compared with 30 for trap shooters.

He noted that nothing will change here as far as the trap shooting events. “Everything that is in place here for traps will remain the same as far as the tournaments,” he said.

But trap shooters may find an interest in a relatively new shooting sport that could eventually be offered at the Valley club.

Already offered at The Keystone Shooting Park near Dalmatia, a sport known as “helice” is something the local club will look into.

New to the United States, the sport was born in the early 1960s and provides an alternative to live pigeon shoots.

The targets used are called “ZZ birds” and are composed of a round plastic cap affixed to a propeller.

As Klinger explains it, “They use a live bird ring where you put the fence up and they put the trap in, the same as they would for live birds. There’s a top to it that makes it spin and go erratic like a pigeon would and you just (have to) separate the top part from the bottom and it must fall within the ring like a pigeon shoot for it to count.”

He added, “I think it would be very popular in this area. I think it’s something that we need to get on in the next year or two, because I believe that’s going to catch on and grow real quick, particularly in this area where it was the capitol of pigeon shooting in the world.”

Klinger still needs to gather more information, but he believes it may be more economically feasible because the ZZ birds, unlike the clay targets, would be reusable.

“I don’t know how long they hold up or what they cost, but it’s something to be worth looking at,” he said.

So just how serious is Klinger about this monumental project?

“My plan at this point in time is to become the fulltime executive director of the PSSA and move to Elysburg and institute the plans I just talked to you about,” he said.

Klinger, 60, started trap shooting at about age 5. He lives in Palmyra and is the current president of the Palmyra Sportsman’s Association. He quit shooting for about 20 years until he returned to competing in the late 1990s.

“From 1999 through about 2008, I shot over 100,000 targets,” he said. “Since then, I haven’t shot that many registered targets because I have been working here and at home.”

With such an ambitious plan for the Elysburg facility, it is likely that Klinger’s shooting time could take an even bigger hit in the coming years.

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