‘Elite’ gun club to open in Oak Forest
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org August 15, 2014 11:59AM
A gun club and shooting range are planned for the former Community Motors site at 5900 W. 159th St. in Oak Forest. | Steve Metsch/Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 18, 2014 6:35AM
A gun range that may attract national shooting competitions and a gun shop have been approved for the long-vacant site of a former car dealership in Oak Forest, and city officials hope the project will lead to further development there, including a multipurpose dome and a hotel.
The city has announced that the Eagle Gun Club will open early next year in the old Community Motors building, 5900 W. 159th St., which has been empty for six years. The city council approved the project Tuesday night, and construction is expected to begin this fall.
The club aims to attract gun enthusiasts as well as regional and national shooting competitions by creating an environment similar to that of “an elite sporting club,” according to the city.
The first phase of the development is an indoor shooting range, a retail gun store and classrooms and training rooms, Mayor Hank Kuspa said, and the range will host shooting competitions for the National Rifle Association and other firearms organizations.
The range will have climate-controlled shooting bays — six long-range and 22 short-range — along with a bow range, a training simulator, a viewing area, a full-service gunsmith shop and private member lounges, the city announced.
Kuspa said the city envisions future development to include a dome for youth sports, a restaurant and possibly a hotel.
“It’s going to be a multipurpose facility where we could even hold conventions in there,” he said of the dome. “... Everything as far as I’m concerned has been completely addressed. This is going to be a great shot in the arm for Oak Forest and make Oak Forest a destination point.”
The Eagle Gun Club lists Omar Ahmad and Islam Zughayer as officers and a business address of 8101 W. 123rd St., Palos Park, the former site of the Hobknobs In the Park restaurant, according to the Illinois secretary of state office’s website.
A reporter visited at 11:30 a.m. Friday and found no one there. A man called Friday afternoon to say Ahmad is the lead person on the project and that he would be given a message to call. Ahmad did not call back and also did not respond to an email request for an interview.
Asked about selling and shooting guns in the city, Police Chief Greg Anderson said he has “no issues at all” with the range or store “as long as they’re a reputable dealer and sell guns by state and federal guidelines.”
Kuspa said Oak Forest had tried to attract a “big box” retailer to the property without success, and plans for a youth baseball complex never went further than the talking stage.
“This will definitely stimulate more interest,” he said. “... We have investors who are spending more than $4 million into this project. It’s a win-win.”
Construction of the gun range must follow guidelines provided by the National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation, and the design must conform to federal requirements for sound reduction, a filtering system and the safe removal and disposal of lead and lead dust, according to a news release from the city.
“The owners have assured us that their operation practices will outperform the standards established by federal regulatory bodies. They are going above and beyond to build a safe facility that will be a positive presence in the community,” Adam Dotson, Oak Forest’s community development director, says in the release.
The Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau supports the proposed development and thinks it will draw visitors to the region.
“The Eagle Gun Club has the potential to become an important destination driver that will benefit the city of Oak Forest and the Chicago Southland through job creation and additional tax revenues,” bureau president and chief executive Jim Garrett said.”The Eagle Gun Club will have the facilities to potentiality host state, regional and national championships and conferences.”
It’s possible, he said, that local police departments could train at the range.
“What impressed me most of all is the city has a vision of good utilization of that property. It’s unique, that’s the word, because there’s no one in the area that has anything quite like this,” Garrett said.
Like Kuspa, he thinks the sports dome could host a variety of events.
“You can have basketball, soccer, indoor football. The neat thing here is the broader picture,” Garrett said. “We can bring in all kinds of things. And it’s great because (everyone coming) will be spending money.”
Garrett has talked with the developers and said he likes what he heard.
“They’re setting the bar high, but people will see the real value in this. It helps Oak Forest and the neighboring communities,” he said.