By Howard Meyerson
Six years ago, the project was just a dream — a hopeful wish to create a West Michigan archery center where Olympic hopefuls and experienced and novice archers could gather, practice and advance their skills. Today that wish has become a reality, and the organizers behind the West Michigan Archery Center say its trajectory is on target.
“We’d like to be open 20 percent more and have more time for activities, but we are operating in the black and are starting to realize our capacity,” noted Josh Zuiderveen, a WMAC board member. “We’re open year‑round and have activities there seven days a week. But it’s a volunteer‑run facility.”
WMAC, which opened in 2014 at 3500 10 Mile Road NE in Rockford, is a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the sport of archery. It is also an Algoma Township public park and part of Plainfield Township’s Premier Park. Some of its users may hone their skills to hunt, but most are there for the pleasure of target shooting, Zuiderveen said.
18 meter shooting lanes
Its 10,000‑square‑foot indoor facility has two dozen 18‑meter shooting lanes. No products are sold, and memberships are not required, but WMAC does offer a family membership program that provides unlimited shooting time.
Otherwise archers pay nominal fees for classes or for time on the range. Gear is provided for classes or can be rented. Others can come with their own bows.
On a recent Tuesday night, all of its shooting lanes were occupied by young and adult archers who stood side by side at the 9‑ meter line. They had signed up for the Introduction to Archery class. Certified instructors were busy teaching students about form and providing the needed encouragement and tips for them to progress.
And progress they did as the session went on.
On other days, those lanes are occupied by special needs classes, women’s groups or other competitive archers. Long distance shooters can use the heated booths on a 90‑meter outdoor range. During warmer seasons, the facility offers an outdoor 3‑D archery trail.
WMAC coaches also work with young Olympic hopefuls. They train youth from 8 to 19 years of age in its Junior Olympic Archery Development program.
Four of its students competed in Olympic trials last fall in College Station, Texas. None were selected for the U.S. Olympic team, but one 19‑year‑old WMAC archer, Michael Plummer, from Midland, was selected for the Junior U.S. Archery Team.
A public facility
Jeff DeRegnaucourt, co‑founder of WMAC, said the facility caters to the general public. It is unique in that way.
“Area (conservation) clubs (with archery ranges) cater more to league shooters and those with their own equipment,” DeRegnaucourt explained. “What sets us apart is that we are a public archery training center. We’re not retail. We’re not selling anything — other than training and expertise. We’re one of seven public archery centers in the country and three in Michigan. Our entire purpose is promoting the sport of archery to the public for recreation and competition.”
WMAC’s certified instructors have worked with a number of special needs groups. Those include paraplegic patients from Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, autistic children from Kentwood Public Schools and deaf students from Northview Public Schools, who arrived with sign‑language interpreters.
“We left the whistles in the back room and set up some lights — red, yellow, green — to signal when it was okay to shoot,” DeRegnaucourt elaborated. “We had eight instructors working with them and had four kids for every interpreter. Thirty to forty kids came out and had a terrific time.”
WMAC operates on the revenues it collects for classes and rentals. Its operations are not subsidized, Zuiderveen said, something he is happy about.
The facility was funded by a $500,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, a $250,000 grant from the Easton Foundation and a mix of private, business and foundation donations totaling $75,000.
“We’re here to promote archery, good form and sportsmanship,” Zuiderveen said. “We are fulfilling our purpose, but I always think we could do more. Right now we have a nice blend of open‑to‑the‑public shooting times and scheduled activities.”
If you’re interested in learning how to shoot a bow and arrow, want to tune‑up your skills or organize a private shoot, check out West Michigan Archery Center this winter.
Appears in MLive Media Group newspapers and MLive Outdoors.