Outdoor Adventure Center brings nature to Brookings

Associated Press

BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP) — The initial concept for what is now known as the Outdoor Adventure Center of South Dakota was to provide an indoor home for 4-H’s growing shooting sports programs.

But once the city of Brookings provided 3.8 acres of land within Dakota Nature Park, the concept quickly blossomed into a $3.7 million year-round activity center offering not only archery and pistol shooting but fishing, kayaking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

“It totally transformed the vision, because we now had access to 135 acres in which we could use some of our 4-H curriculum,” said Nancy Swanson, executive director of the South Dakota 4-H Foundation.

The 30,000-square-foot building on Brookings’ south side, which is set to open in December, will feature an Olympic-size 25-meter indoor archery range and a 75-foot indoor pistol shooting range.

Between the two ranges will be 4-H Outdoor Adventure Alley, a collection of classrooms for environmental and recreational curriculum.

Students will have access to the nature park’s rolling hills and chain of small lakes, so youth learning cross country skiiing, kayaking or canoeing will be able to head outside after classroom settings for hands-on learning.

“Our philosophy was: ‘How do we get kids outside?’ because kids are no longer outside,” Swanson said. “That became our focus.”

Jim Pickard, president of the Outdoor Adventure Center board, said a varied course curriculum could also cover such topics as how to cook wildlife, how to make pottery or how cocoons become butterflies.

The center, which is an independent community project but is geared to 4-H’s programs and needs, is being funded by private donations, grants and membership fees.

Board members are still hammering out a membership and fee structure, but they expect the center to draw both youth and adults from the state and region.

Pickard said there will likely be individual, family and veterans categories, and members will be able to choose whether they want access to all of the center’s amenities or just some.

“Hopefully it will be a fee-funded project,” he said. “We’re catering our structure of fees to try to accommodate everybody as reasonable as we can.”

Swanson said the shooting and archery ranges will be “world-class,” and the center plans to hold invitational tournaments for archery and other competitive precision sports. She said the center will complement Yankton’s NFAA Easton Archery Complex, which hosts numerous national archery tournaments.

“Because of our location, we think that we’re going to be a great feeder site for the competitions that they have down there,” Swanson said.