Southern Illinois leaders say they're disappointed with a decision that bars the Amateur Trapshooters Association from hosting their Grand American competition in Sparta this year.
State Senator Paul Schimpf says he was "bitterly disappointed" with the decision, announced Monday. He says the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta should be an economic engine for the region - now he's worried about the facility's viability.
State leaders pointed to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, but Schimpf says the ATA and regional leaders had a detailed plan ready.
"This was something where the local stakeholders - the mayors, the county officials, the ATA officials based in southern Illinois - they all worked very hard to come up with a plan to conduct the shoot safely."
Schimpf says competitors are typically spaced nine feet apart, further than current social distancing guidelines. He also says state campgrounds are open, so concerns about campers at the Grand American could have been mitigated. He says the annual event brings tens of millions of dollars into the local economy, which is already suffering from COVID-19 restrictions.
The ATA says it'll hold the Grand American this year in Missouri - near Lake of the Ozarks.