March 23, 2018
Behind the Firing Line: Royal Range
|Welcome to NSSF’s column for firearms range owners, managers and staff. “Behind the Firing Line” works to accomplish two things. First, it recognizes ranges that have met the stringent requirements necessary to achieve an NSSF Star-Rating for excellence. Second, it works to explain how these ranges met specific criteria within the Star-Rating Range Program, so that other ranges working to make the grade can discover ideas and guidance for their own improvement. For more information on NSSF’s Star-Rating Range Program, visit www.nssf.org.|
|—Zach Snow, NSSF Director, Range Services|
Royal Range, Nashville, Tennessee
Opened in 2014, Royal is just off Interstate 40 West on Highway 70 South in Nashville. Near the Tennessee River, it’s just 15 minutes from downtown.
The building encompasses over 40,000 square feet. The 6,000-square-foot retail store stocks an average of 900 new guns, with a revolving stock of 100 rentals. There is a large customer waiting area, office space and two large theater-style classrooms, one with riser seating and a second with a 40-seat U-shaped conference table. Both classrooms include state-of-the-art multimedia services and are used for everything from corporate meetings to first-time-owner handgun classes.
Royal Range employs a staff of 40 full- and part-time employees. It operates seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Pistol and rifle rentals start at $20 per hour. Pistol lanes rent for $20 per hour, with rifle lanes at $30 per hour. The range is closed for most major holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Easter and the Fourth of July.
As a Five-Star NSSF range, the facility meets best practices standards for state-of-the-art design. This ensures a high level of safety and comfort for workers and customers. Our interview included Paul Jividen, Controller, and Frank Wilson, Director of Operations. This column will focus on the Nashville range’s history and how it overcame a number of obstacles while creating a growing clientele.
Embracing a Cinematic Perspective
It took the epic, 1,000-year Nashville flood of 2010 to create the future home of the Royal Gun Range within the former 12-screen cinema that had sat vacant for more than two years.
“It was truly a big dream,” said Jividen. “I was the attorney retained to work alongside two firearms enthusiasts with a small gun business, as they crafted the concept to create a training, destination-driven shooting range. After extensive research, it was clear that developing a range of this scale would take a partnership of business professionals, partners who would see value in a new shooting range for a broad segment of the community. Eventually, John Russell and Scott McWilliams joined the project, allowing the vision to become a reality.”
Jividen’s exhaustive research revealed there were nearly a dozen ranges in the mid-Tennessee area. However, those ranges were often small, offered exceptionally limited hours and failed to demonstrate an acceptable level of customer service.
As for the targeted site for the new range, the original cinema had been constructed in the mid-’90s. It had a unique mix of attributes that made the property ideal for conversion to a shooting range. The large building was also in relatively good shape: After surviving the 2010 flood, it had undergone adequate demolition for flood abatement, and the electricity was still intact. It also had an overabundance of parking. Standing in better condition than one may have thought, it was ready for redesign and reconstruction with a layout suitable for large classroom segmentation and comfortably sized shooting lanes.
Sourcing Design Expertise
The partners knew they wanted a range that was efficient to run, met industry best practices and offered consummate training for the public. They sought design assistance from Meggitt Training and Building Systems in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Meggitt clearly had the experience and design savvy that moved our project into a practical reality,” said Jividen. “You can have plenty of ideas, but it takes a design group with this kind of experience to create a building that has this kind of function and form.”
Although during my interview with him Jividen declined to share the full budget for the building’s renovation, he did disclose that the HVAC system had an initial investment of one million dollars. “Our system has the kind of filtration used in scientific research facilities. It assures us that our staff and patrons work in a safe, healthy environment,” he said.
Connecting with the Community
During the company’s permitting process, a city council member organized a community meeting to receive feedback from the nearby residents. Jividen was initially concerned the meeting could devolve into a show of negative responses from some locally organized groups. Reality proved different than expected.
“We were amazed at the show of overwhelming support from the community. Not only was 98 percent of the audience supportive, they were also interested in using or finding out what services would be provided by the range,” said Jividen.
One of the goals for this range was to offer an extensive choice of training programs. The company is committed to an extraordinarily large variety of training programs. “Our focus ranged from the first-time inexperienced shooter to professionals working within the security industry. Our tactical room has the flexibility to change to meet the needs of the customer,” Jividen said.
Jividen cited examples of bringing large items like vehicles into the space for specialty training exercises. He also mentioned that women’s events are continuing to gain in popularity and sales. He stated that women are typically first-time shooters and new to gun ownership. By offering specific, women-oriented events and training, the range’s female customers account for between 25 and 35 percent of total sales.
Taking a flooded theater and converting it to a state-of-the-art shooting range is not an investment for the faint of heart. At Nashville’s Royal Range, research, planning and hiring the right design staff paid off.
Although Jividen stated that starting with a clean slate could be ideal, he said you need to stretch and be flexible to work with and around limitations. “After all,” he said, “that’s why we have a 57-yard rifle range.”