‘Hunger Games’ brings surprise clientele to archery range
Lystra and Deana Pitts owe a debt of gratitude to author Suzanne Collins.
The Pitts opened Wasting Arrows indoor archery range in South Meadows in November of 2012, roughly eight months after the release of “Hunger Games,” the screen adaptation of Collins’ hugely successful book about Katniss Everdeen and her prowess with bow and arrow.
That movie — the second installment of the trilogy was just released last week — drew crowds of teenage customers to Wasting Arrows who wanted to learn to shoot like their heroine in the movies.
Teenage girls aren’t the only surprise clientele for Wasting Arrows, Lystra Pitts says. When he moved the operation from an outdoor range off USA Parkway in Tahoe Reno Industrial Center to an indoor facility in South Meadows, he expected that bow hunters sharpening their skills would comprise the bulk of his clientele.
Instead, families seeking fun and creative ways to spend time together have far outpaced serious bow hunters at the archery range.
“We get tons of families,” Lystra Pitts says. “Mom, dad, the kids, they all want to try out archery and they all come in and shoot together. We are more of a family entertainment place rather than just a place to practice your bow skills.”
Pitts and his wife are Level 2 archery instructors certified by USA Archery, meaning they can train Wasting Arrows staff of five in the intricacies of archery, shooting steps, safety and equipment setup. Staff in turn work with new archers to bring them up to speed or sharpen their skills during lessons or free shooting times.
“When someone comes in the door, we teach them how to shoot,” Pitts says. “We make sure they are shooting safely before the go out on the range. We kind of tailored our business toward (the idea) that most of the people who come in here don’t know how to shoot.”
Pitts has a background in construction, so it was simple to erect the backstop for the 22 archery lanes and paint lines on the floor. The professional shooting lanes are 60 feet, while the training lanes are 10 yards. Pitts also has a small retail center at the front of the facility.
“It was minimal TIs to get it open,” he says. “We had access to the building October 15, and we were open Nov. 17, so it took us about a month to get everything set up. It went pretty quick.”
The Pitts decided moving the range to town would draw more business and also would eliminate the uncertainty caused by northern Nevada’s unpredictable and temperamental weather. They capitalized on favorable lease rates on industrial space in the South Meadows and took a modest-sized space on Double Diamond Parkway.
Lystra Pitts says Wasting Arrows’ biggest competition is “everyone’s backyard” and the wide-open lands surround Reno and Sparks where people can practice archery for free. However, the air-conditioned confines of the facility prove popular in the dead of summer, and having a heated space attracts clients during the cold winters.
August proved to be Wasting Arrows’ biggest month due to school programs, field trips and families coming in. Wasting Arrows also has proven popular with large corporations such as IGT, Hometown Health and Haws Corp, which used the shooting time as team-building exercises.
The main challenge after one year in business is finding enough time at night to accommodate the many different archery leagues clamoring for lane time, Pitts says. Youth and teenage classes also are full — credit to Katniss.
“There is a lot of economic uncertainty still, so priority No. 1 for every single small business owner should be survival … And this second round of PPP is basically the lifeline to survive.”