The Problem The World Shooting and Recreation Complex (WSRC) in Sparta, Illinois was completed in 2006 at a construction cost of $31.5 million (as well as another $18 million for road, water, and sewer improvement). The 1,600-acre facility includes 746 RV campsites, 120 trap shooting fields, and a 34,000 square foot events center.
The state-funded facility came fully loaded with high expectations. In August 2004, State Representative Dan Reitz said the World Shooting and Recreation Complex “will be the only state park in the state of Illinois that makes money.” In June 2005, the director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), estimated the complex would bring the state about $50 million to $100 million in economic development each year, once up and running.
Has the Complex lived up to its hype? Not exactly. In fact, the Complex’s total projected revenue collection from fiscal year 2004 through fiscal year 2011 falls short of the total amount the state appropriated to the Complex by more than $1.5 million. The table below features the state expenditures for the Complex’s operation and maintenance as well as its imprest account, which is used to handle minor disbursements, such as awards for competitions. The categories of revenue for the complex include the WSRC Event Center/Mall/Tent etc., event income, concessions, camping related, sponsorship/advertising, shooting disciplines (individuals), shooting disciplines (groups), and gift certificates.
The expected benefit of increased economic activity has also not come to fruition. After the World Shooting and Recreation Complex opened in the summer of 2006, the raw sales tax data from the City of Sparta shows a slight decline in sales tax receipts in following years. When the tax receipts are adjusted for inflation, the decline becomes more dramatic, dropping below 2002 levels.
Our Solution Projects such as the Sparta World Shooting and Recreation Complex are often touted for their potential to stimulate economic development, but they are rarely analyzed to see whether or not they have lived up to their boosters’ high expectations. The Sparta World Shooting and Recreation Complex should be taken off of the state dole, and similar projects should be avoided in the future. Why This Works State and local government should focus on delivering core services, especially in difficult economic times. Rather than attempting to spur economic development with complex and costly projects, the state government should focus on improving the business climate via tax and regulatory reform. By decreasing the cost of doing business in Illinois, the state can attract entrepreneurs and businesses that will drive sustainable job creation and economic growth.