Airsoft, archery facility gets zoning green lightApril 4, 2019
By ALLEN LAMAN
JASPER — It’s rare for a teenager attending a Jasper Board of Zoning appeals meeting to become overwhelmed with joy. Not to diminish the crucial work the local zoning entity does, but it’s uncommon for a teenager to even find their way into the crowd at one of the board’s monthly meetings.
Wednesday night was different.
Fifteen-year-old Jake Epple sat among a packed audience of all ages in the council chambers at Jasper City Hall, eagerly awaiting the fate of a special exception that would propel a new airsoft and archery facility one step closer to opening its doors to the public.
After the request received the green light, he felt the urge to leap.
“I wanted to jump up and start hopping,” Epple said after the decision, smiling from ear to ear.
HTK Airsoft will soon begin operations in a multi-level building located at 1355 Vine Street. Housed in a former Jofco furniture factory, the reworked structure will host the sport’s largest indoor playing arena in the Midwest when it opens later this spring.
The site held a soft opening earlier this year, but closed while awaiting formal approval to open on the heavy-industrial-zoned land.
“In Dubois County, we’re a very wealthy community in terms of money,” explained co-owner Jason McCoy. “But we’re very poor when it comes to resources for children’s activities.”
He and many of those who came to the zoning meeting said that aside from activities offered through the county schools, recreation options in the area are limited. They believe HTK is a step away from that norm.
“It gives people something to do as a community,” said Brian Mounts, a 54-year-old airsoft player who was present Wednesday night to voice his support. “You can live next to somebody for 20 years and not know them. You meet ‘em on an airsoft field, you’re gonna get to know ‘em.”
The game of airsoft is a tactical one. Competitors duck behind stationed obstacles for cover as they work on teams to shoot their opponents with hard plastic BBs. The most painful hits feel like bee stings. After being tagged, players acknowledge they’ve been shot and head to a designated respawn area.
In addition to the sprawling arena, HTK will also feature an airsoft and archery range, an on-site store and lounge, as well as TV monitors that will broadcast closed-circuit gameplay footage. The company also has an outdoor site located on more than 100 acres of woods, pasture and farmland in Loogootee.
McCoy said he didn’t have any connection to the sport until his son, Harrison, took an interest in it with a growing number of friends. After playing on the family’s Martin County farm for half a year, McCoy saw how the activity provided an opportunity for the kids to get away from video games and couches, and it clicked that he and Harrison could bring that opportunity to people across southwestern Indiana.
The father-son team embarked on an extensive research process that included trips to airsoft facilities across the country, a convention in Los Angeles and a meeting with a famous YouTuber who runs Airsoftology, an informative airsoft channel whose videos have garnered more than 27 million views.
“You just meet so many awesome people in the sport,” said Harrison, 14, who co-owns and manages the local company. “It’s a sport where there’s plenty of communicating, and you do have to rely on a team to help you win whatever game you’re playing or whatever you’re doing.”
Once open, the Jasper HTK facility will operate on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Participants will pay for three-hour sessions, and can rent gear and purchase BBs on site, or bring their own.
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