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singersp
03-03-2006, 02:29 PM
Dennis Anderson: Vikings might crowd out another gun club

It has been getting tougher and tougher to find ranges for target shooting and competition, and now Zygi Wilf might be endangering a 140-acre site in Blaine.

Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune
Last update: March 02, 2006 – 8:52 PM

As recently as a couple of years ago it would have been far-fetched to imagine a New Jersey man named Zygi Wilf could in any way affect the lives of the 15,000 or so shooters who annually frequent the Metro Gun Club in Blaine.
But as fate would have it, Wilf purchased the Vikings and is attempting to build a stadium on more than 700 acres in Anoka County.

Included not only would be a stadium but, as envisioned, a sprawling retail and business complex that would feature a world-class hotel and medical facility. The centerpiece would be a retractable-roof stadium costing more than $600 million -- a stadium that would sit almost exactly where Metro Gun Club now resides.

The club has 14 trap ranges, six skeet fields, four sporting clays fields, a duck tower and an indoor handgun range.

People in Anoka County familiar with Wilf's ambitious purchase of options on land lying within the proposed 700-acre stadium site suggest a similar deal is in the offing between Wilf and Metro Gun Club owner Rick Wilder.

Wilf is personally involved in the land purchase negotiations and has met Wilder and toured the club. One person characterized the relationship as "personal," and another said, "Rick and Zigi have had a number of conversations. They're getting closer to putting something together."

The issue is important for shooters and hunters because, nationwide, gun clubs are falling prey to urban expansion and particularly to encroachment by residential development.

It's not too much of a stretch to envision a time not far away in America when most of the population will have no convenient place for target practice or to shoot competitively.

Whatever the Second Amendment guarantees, it seems, it does not include a place to shoot -- this even though the Minnesota Legislature last session passed a law intended to buffer gun clubs from some threats, including complaining neighbors.

Metro isn't the only gun club under fire in the Twin Cities. Development and ever-higher property values also encircle the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake. And St. Anthony Gun Club in Ramsey recently closed and its property is being developed.

But the Metro Gun Club is unique because the stakes are high for everyone involved. This includes Midwest gun owners, many of whom shoot trap, skeet and sporting clays recreationally at the club, and some of whom travel there from surrounding states for registered shoots.

The stakes also are high for Wilf, whom some say has spent millions already on land-purchase options on the site.

The big piece of the stadium proposal pie, however, is Metro Gun Club's 140 acres. That land -- unlike some property on which Wilf has bought options -- would not be as easily converted to other uses should the stadium deal fall through.

Even if a stadium is built -- an open question, given the Legislature's hesitancy to move the deal forward -- Wilf's payback on an option to buy the gun club and its eventual outright purchase would be years away. The soonest a stadium might open would be 2010 or 2011.

Wilder considers Metro Gun Club not only a business for him and his wife, Rita, (who is also an owner) but a lifestyle. Some say as recently as a year ago he was firm in his conviction to keep the club open.

Thursday, he sounded less certain.

"If it comes down to it, who am I to stand in the way of progress?" Wilder said. "But if I sell, I want to make a free decision about it."

Wilder's reference was to his opposition to being forced out through eminent domain.

Wilf is "an honest man, a fair man," Wilder said.

"He's poking around, seeing what he can do," Wilder said. "I've seen him a few times. If he makes me an offer I can't refuse, we'll see what happens."

Metro Gun Club's fate might not be tied only to Wilf's proposed stadium. One county official said it's unlikely the club will occupy its 140 acres indefinitely. The property, the official said, is part of a bigger development picture the county and the city of Blaine envision, and in some way, some day, it will be gone.

Which would scatter Twin Cities shooters evermore widely, some to Oakdale Gun Club, others to similar though smaller venues in Ham Lake, Forest Lake and Hudson, Wis.

"There's also a new club in Alexandria [Minn.]," Wilder said.

About a three-hour drive from the Twin Cities.

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

Vikings might crowd out another gun club (http://www.startribune.com/531/story/281955.html)

PurpleRide
03-03-2006, 03:22 PM
A single tear falls from my eye. Thats part of living or having a business in or near a sprawling metro area, eventually things like that will have to move. Now these guys are trying to make zigy look bad because a bunch of rednecks have to shoot somewhere else, too bad! Build the stadium!

Ltrey33
03-03-2006, 04:01 PM
"PurpleRide" wrote:

A single tear falls from my eye. Thats part of living or having a business in or near a sprawling metro area, eventually things like that will have to move. Now these guys are trying to make zigy look bad because a bunch of rednecks have to shoot somewhere else, too bad! Build the stadium!

Well, I take issue with the rednecks comment, because it's not only rednecks that shoot guns and hunt. That's a pretty stereotypical statement.

Other than that, I agree with you. It's not the first time a company that is related to a multi-billion dollar industry will crowd out a small business with a limited audience. It's survival of the fittest! Welcome to capitalism!

sleepagent
03-03-2006, 04:07 PM
Life happens. Things change. If the club is that important, and that popular, then don't sell. Apparently its not, thus these discussions.