December 8, 2016
Austin Business Journal
By Jan Buchholz
The Range at Austin, touted as one of the most sophisticated indoor shooting ranges in the country, is almost complete and aims to open in late January.
The Austin Business Journal was given an exclusive tour of the 52,000-square-foot facility at 8301 S. I-35, north of Slaughter Lane. The land it’s built on is in an extremely busy area of South Austin, but the site is outside the city limits in Austin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, so development requirements were less stringent.
From the time the project was announced, it’s been about 15 months — a short time frame in Austin development terms.
The $15 million project is designed to attract a wide spectrum of customers from savvy weapons handlers to people who have never fired a gun but want to learn how to shoot.
“We want to make this as friendly and open as possible,” said Partner Grant Shaw.
Other companies that have been involved in the construction of The Range are Sabre Commercial Inc., Big Red Dog Engineering & Consulting and Action Target of Utah. SkylesBayne real estate brokerage found the property for The Range — a real diamond in the rough from a development perspective.
On the day of the tour, the building was buzzing with activity as construction workers tackled the finish-out work — tenant improvements that are atypical by a long shot; the firing lanes, for instance.
There are 37 total lanes — five are 100 yards, the length of a football field, while 32 lanes are 25 yards. Each lane is designed with bulletproof glass between lanes and behind the shooters. People waiting to shoot have a comfortable dedicated seating area that allows everyone to see and be seen for maximum safety.
“Everything is bright and open,” Shaw said.
Each lane is equipped with a touch screen that provides shooters with different firing scenarios for various skill levels.
“We’re trying to do things you don’t see at other ranges,” Shaw said.
Even the smallest details count — such as shelves for women to place their purses safely out of the way.
Some technicalities are hardly apparent to the average person. With every pull of the trigger, gunpowder is released into the closed-in environment, so air circulation is a critical health and environmental factor.
“We spent $900,000 just on the circulation system. Every 85 seconds all the air is recycled. It’s a brand new system, and it’s expensive,” Shaw said.
As for disposal of spent ammunition, the bullets are caught in an impenetrable metal trap and transported on a conveyor to storage barrels that are hauled away in sealed 55-gallon drums.
Though safety and technology are paramount, modern design and comfort are elevated, as well. Clayton&Little Architects — known for upscale hospitality projects such as VOX Table, Juliet and Clark’s Oyster Bar — have created a facility that transcends outdoor recreational superstores or mom-and-pop shooting ranges.
The ceilings are high. The colors are soothing.
The retail displays and product niches are organized thoughtfully — kiosks display a wide variety of guns that, while tethered to the walls, also allow customers freedom to the handle the firearms.
“You can feel how it fits,” Shaw said.
Connoisseurs can expect the newest weaponry to be available at The Range. Sig Sauer, the German firearms manufacturer, has a dedicated store space within the larger retail area — about 780 square feet of the total 7,000 square feet.
The rest of the retail inventory is divided into sections — pistols, rifles and the latest technical weapons. Other areas feature gun accessories and apparel.
“Our concept for these products is ‘made in Texas,’” Shaw said.
There also is a gunsmithing clinic where “a triage nurse will diagnose what’s wrong with your gun,” Shaw said, with experts on hand to fix the problem.
A spacious lounge is equipped with WiFi, big-screen televisions and comfy chairs. Lockers are available — but not metal school-type lockers — these are sumptuous wood storage units.
There’s a private entrance for VIPs — members of the Patriot Club, which can be accessed for a price.
The range also has a large multi-purpose room, three classrooms that can accommodate 30 people each and several smaller conference rooms — all named in honor of people with names such as Crockett, Bowie and Gonzales. An outdoor patio includes lounge chairs and a water feature. There’s also a dining area, but The Range has yet to name a vendor to operate it permanently. Initially a caterer will supply food.
Shaw hopes companies will consider The Range for staff retreats and other special events.
The first floor is open to the public. The Range has a variety of membership levels and drop-in fees.
“If you come more than once, you need a membership,” Shaw said.
Annual memberships start at $250 a year plus an initiation fee with discounts for military and law enforcement. Lifetime memberships start at $50,000, but before the facility opens, the cost is $40,000. Three hundred individual membership have been sold thus far, as well as a couple of lifetime memberships and a corporate membership, which starts at $12,500. Drop-in hourly fees begin at $25.