FORT WORTH — Tarrant County College’s officials knew for years of a need for an indoor firing range for area law officers.But the impetus to get it built came it from a new neighbor.The opening last year of the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw school district’s Chisholm Trail High School raised concerns about having an outdoor range so near. Once school officials brought it to the attention of the college, plans started for the new range at TCC’s Northwest Campus.“We didn’t have it in the budget, but we decided it was important enough to get on it right away,” TCC Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley said.Solving that problem led to the new $8.5 million range, which had its grand opening Thursday.And TCC officials hope it will lead to even more North Texas law enforcement agencies using the range for training.“We hope to double, if not quadruple the number of officers who use this facility,” said Arrick Johnson, dean of public services and behavioral sciences. About 3,000 officers used the old outdoor range last year.The new 37,000-square-foot facility has 15 firing lanes that are 50 yards long and five that are 100 yards. Targets can move and officers can train under different conditions.All 20 firing lanes are rated for rifles, compared with only one lane at the old range. The new facility will be used by cadets in TCC’s basic police officer academy as well as state, federal, county and local police agencies in North Texas. Almost all law enforcement agencies in Tarrant County, except Fort Worth and Arlington, are expected to use the range, Jackson said.North Richland Hills police will be the first to conduct live training there, beginning Monday. “It really expands our ability to train our police officers,” Assistant Police Chief Mike Hamlin said. “For so long, we’ve really been anchored to outdoor ranges. The ability to come inside, to conduct training in an environment somewhat outside of the elements, is a great opportunity.”Forest Hill Police Chief Dan Dennis said the range allows departments to train in different ways.“We can do ‘night training’ during the day and training in weather we couldn’t do previously,” Dennis said.The new facility also has a 40-seat classroom, a large cleaning room and a ventilation system that protects shooters and instructors from inhaling contaminants such as lead.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna