LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch is taking aim with a project it hopes will draw national attention to the community.
The company has earned approvals to build a sporting clays course on about 70 acres of undeveloped property within Lakewood Ranch, about one-and-a-half miles east of Lorraine Road and about one-half mile south of State Road 64.
Called the Ancient Oak Gun Club, the course will likely open in February and will offer annual memberships, as well as daily-fee shooting. A sporting clays course, such as the one being developed by SMR, typically includes 10 to 15 shooting stations laid out over natural terrain.
“It’s not a range,” SMR President and CEO Rex Jensen said. “It’s basically a course you navigate.”
SMR has hired Wayne Evans, a master-level shooter and a former sporting clays course owner, to manage the club.
“We’re going to have clinics for beginners and people who have never shot before to introduce them to the sport,” Evans said, noting safety will be a top priority. “They teach them gun safety, gun fit, how to acquire a target and how to break a target. This sport is wide-open for women and kids.
“It’s the fastest-growing sport in the United States right now, but a lot of people don’t know about it,” he said.
Evans said the closest sporting clays courses are more than 30 minutes away, but courses for competitive shooters are farther away.
“For competitive shooters, there’s a registered shoot every weekend at about six different clubs in the state,” Evans said. “Shooters on the West Coast have been dying for a club of the caliber Lakewood Ranch (will build). The clubs on the East Coast are nice, but they are far away.”
Jensen agreed he hopes to attract sporting-clay enthusiasts from throughout the region and state to practice, as well as to compete, at the facility.
“It is our intent to attract tournament play,” Jensen said, adding he’d like to attract shooters from the national circuit to the course.
Jensen said he’d been talking with SMR’s board of directors for a little more than a year about the concept and got a green light to move forward with it after determining there was enough clientele in the area.
The project, he said, is another way to make Lakewood Ranch unique.
“I look for things that are difficult for our competition to replicate,” Jensen said, noting few developments have as many vacant acres available as SMR. “It adds another dimension to our amenity package.”
Jensen said Ancient Oak will have an office and pro shop in the form of modular trailers, and SMR will not be building a permanent structure on the site, because it may one day be more suitable for development.
“(The gun club is) moveable,” Jensen said. “But that’s years away.”
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