North Metro Gun Range Expansion Includes More Virtual Reality Training
At first glance, Maple Grove’s North Metro Gun Range looks relatively nondescript. But in actuality, the building serves a vital role for a number of law enforcement entities in the northwest metro.
“We have 19 other entities besides the city of Maple Grove that use this facility as their training ground,” said Maple Grove Mayor Mark Steffenson.
“We’re essentially training the region,” said Maple Grove Police Chief Eric Werner. “So giving the region the best possible training from the local to the federal level, and we’re all working together. So we have the best trained public safety personnel for their communities in the region.”
However, there’s a cost associated with providing that valuable training to the region.
“It’s completely booked. It’s completely full,” Mayor Steffenson said. “Other agencies want to come here because it’s a great facility. But they can’t because there’s no time, so we need to have a bigger, better facility so everyone can train and become better officers.”
Hoping for State Funding Help
In order to make that expansion happen, state lawmakers would have to include the range in a state bonding bill.
“A lot of people are excited about the expansion of the gun range,” said Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove. “Of course, that’s a provision on the bonding bill, and there’s a big dispute right now between house and senate and the governor’s office of whether we will have a bonding bill this year.”
While lawmakers debate about that at the Capitol, law enforcement got to test out a 360-degree virtual simulator called VirTra that would be part of a potential expansion.
“It’s essentially immersion training,” Werner said. “So when you put one officer or multiple officers in a  degree environment, you’re essentially putting them into the real world as much as possible. And it allows them to deal with the scenario that’s in front of them.”
Yet before officers have the opportunity to consistently train with this technology, they’ll need state lawmakers to sign off.
“I’m really confident that our project will be one of those that’s funded,” Mayor Steffenson said.
Senator Limmer’s bill asked for $6.5 million in bonding money, but the North Metro Gun Range isn’t the only gun range or training facility asking for bonding money this year. There’s also an ask for a range in the east metro.