An indoor gun range could soon be coming to Hudson.
John Monson, owner of two Bill's Gun Shop & Range locations in the Twin Cities, has expressed interest in leasing the 22,000-square-foot space at Crestview Drive and O'Keefe Road that was vacated years ago by Hudson Cinema 9 when it expanded, moved and became the .
Monson's shops, in Robbinsdale and Circle Pines, are both fully stocked retail firearms stores and indoor firing ranges with shootings lanes of 25 yards and 50 yards. He said for the past two years he's been looking for another location to open a shop.
"Every time we got in the car and drove around, I just couldn't help but drive to Hudson," Monson said. "There's something about being on the other side of the river at that location, and my heart was set on being there. So that's where we've focused all our energy in the last six months."
Bill Wanner of BNA Realty has been working with Monson on a deal that would allow Bill's Gun Shop & Range to expand the space and make the major renovations needed to turn it into a safe place to discharge firearms.
"They'd be looking at about a 5,000-square-foot expansion off the east side," Wanner said. "I think it's a worthwhile project and I think they'll do well. It's a very safe and sound concept."
This part of the city isn't a stranger to weapons. Just blocks away, sells a variety of firearms and shooting accessories, and operates a store and an indoor archery range. But to operate a proper indoor gun range, major renovations will be necessary.
"We basically have to turn it into a cement box," Monson said.
He said each wall will be reinforced on all sides with concrete, and a state-of-the-art, self-contained ventilation system will also be added.
"We've got two facilities now and we've never lost a bullet," Monson said.
To any Hudsonites concerned about the safety of his proposed facility, Monson says he will give them a personal tour of either of his other facilities.
Zoning Code Changes Needed
"Our current zoning ordinance does not permit gun ranges in commercial districts or industrial districts," said Denny Darnold, community development director for the .
Darnold said the city will likely examine amending the zoning code to allow indoor gun ranges in B-2 general business districts and I-1 light industrial or I-2 heavy industrial districts. The issue could be in front of the city's Plan Commission as soon as June 14, and the City of Hudson Common Council thereafter.
"Neither the police chief or myself are opposed to an indoor gun range," Darnold said. "I think the reason they are not permitted is because basically back when the ordinances were created, this one in 1993, most gun ranges were outdoors. Certainly you've got to be careful about creating gun ranges in urban outdoor areas. Indoor facilities are becoming more popular."
Working With Law Enforcement
Bill's Gun Shop & Range locations have a reputation of working with law enforcement agencies and Hudson Police Chief is interested in the offer of his officers having special after-hours access to the range for training purposes.
"They asked my opinion and I think it's a good idea," said Chief Marty Jensen. "I want to do some more checking to see what kind of operation they run in Minnesota, but from what I've heard so far they run a really good business. I'm looking forward to finding out more."
Currently, the city's police force does most of its firearms training at the .
Helping the Community
"We run our business a lot like a bowling alley or a golf club," Monson said. "People go there for recreation and to have a good time, and we do everything we can to facilitate their need to just come in and have a hoot."
Wanner hopes having a new recreational facility once again at the vacant movie theater will bring more traffic to businesses operating in that part of the city.
"We're desperately in need of more traffic generation," Wanner said. "This is a concept that has proven itself and I think it will generate strong support once they open."
Beyond helping neighboring businesses, as an owner-operator Monson said he plans to buy a house in town so he can be here on a regular basis through the development and construction of the project.
"We're going to hire some people in the community. We're going to collect a large amount of sales tax on the things we sell, and we're going to be a good steward," Monson said.