West Michigan Archery Center attracts diverse group of shooters, aims for mid-summer opening

Construction of the West Michigan Archery Center's new $1.15 million tournament-level building will be ready for its first round of shooters this summer, but in the meantime, the organization has attracted a diverse group of shooters of all ages.

The new hub of activity is underway at 3500 10 Mile Road, Rockford, and shares a driveway with the Art Van Sports Complex next door. A 10,000-square-foot building will be fully ADA compliant to encourage athletes of all abilities, and will feature a 6,000-square-foot indoor shooting bay with 24 lanes and a concession area. One huge advantage that allows West Michigan archers to compete on home turf during cold weather are heated shooting booths that keep archers warm but allow them to aim for outdoor targets up to 90 meters away.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the club is that athletes of all physical abilities and all ages can participate.

"One of the things I think is the coolest about our group, is that, even though it's centered in a predominantly white suburb, we've managed to attract a diverse culture," says Josh Zuiderveen, the nonprofit archery association's secretary. "We haven't tried to do that; it's just happened on its own. We have a five-time national champion who happens to be a teenage girl who is African American, we have a lot of young women who do really well in tournaments, and we have a 10-year-old boy who has been shooting with us about two years who has dwarfism. He competed in the World Dwarf Games in Lansing and won for archery, beating out adults."

Zuiderveen says many of the young people in the organization have learning disabilities, including attention deficit disorder and autism.

Many of the young archers participate in the Junior Olympic Archery Development program, which has 16 men and women who are certified coaches and help the athletes develop their skills for competition.

Besides competitive archery, the center also offers practice space for bow hunters. The association plans to hold tournaments at the new facility. A past location has been Rockford High School, which had over 100 competitors from around the state last year.

Until the new center is completed, participants will continue to meet for practices and competitions at Rockford Sportsman's Club banquet hall.

The center received a $500,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, and a $250,000 grant from the Easton Sports Development Foundation.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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