By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Like many things in life, it seems as though the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club keeps getting better with time.
“The place got started back in 1967,” Lester Prairie resident and club mentor Ed Mlynar said, explaining that, originally, it was a simple 24-by-24-foot structure with no bathroom.
Since then, there have been several upgrades and additions, with the most recent one completed a few days ago.
Lester Prairie resident Jerome Herrmann has been doing the woodwork and insulation for the project.
“We added log siding on the lower half of the interior walls, and vertical paneling on the upper walls,” Mlynar said. “On the five end walls, the paneling is at a 45-degree angle for something different.”
Mlynar spent a great deal of time searching for the ideal wall material before making his selection.
“I’ve been out looking from here to Mille Lacs,” he said.
The top of the club is also bright and new, with white commercial ceiling tile and fluorescent lighting that features high and low beams.
Heating and air conditioning was upgraded for efficiency and comfort, as well.
“We are just so happy we have all of this done,” Mlynar said.
A second phase of the project is planned for later this spring, and will most likely be completed by mid-May.
“We’ll be replacing the carpeting and adding an open-air addition to the west end,” Mlynar said.
The first rental for the club is Sunday, April 10, and the first trapshooting night is Wednesday, April 13.
“We’ll be open every Wednesday from then on,” Mlynar said.
With the new improvements, the sportsmen’s club is an attractive place for many types of get-togethers, and people have the option of renting only one of the three rooms if they have a smaller group.
“We already have several graduations scheduled,” Mlynar said, adding that the space is also perfect for card game tournaments, business parties, and other group gatherings. In the summer, visitors often enjoy barbecuing outside, where there are picnic tables and plenty of parking spaces.
“We’re very flexible,” Mlynar said. ‘We want to accommodate the community.”
When the sportsmen’s club was first built, it only had one section, which is now called the “east room.”
A 16-foot addition was completed within the first two years of construction, but the club still didn’t have a well.
“That was our first major expense,” Mlynar recalled. “It was a big deal, and we had no money.”
After they got a well, Jon Schwichtenberg and a few others decided it was time to purchase a trap “without the approval of the board of directors,” Mlynar laughed.
“From one trap, we went to a second trap,” he said.
Members also built a warehouse on the property to store clay pigeons.
“Before the warehouse, we had to store them in an empty building in downtown Lester Prairie,” Mlynar said. “They were hauled out to the trap range weekly, as needed.”
Later on, the warehouse was connected to the original room. Now, the warehouse is known as the “west room,” and the connecting section is the “center room.”
In 1975, the sportsmen’s club started hosting registered shoots.
“We had booming years then, with the help of Jon Schwichtenberg, who was an ATA [Amateur Trapshooting Association] shooter, and others such as Dr. Mischoff of Hutchinson, Tom Barry, Romany Sinnen, and Allen Heiil. They provided us with the outside public relations for fantastic participation in ATA shooting,” Mlynar said.
“This generated fantastic response from other ATA shooters in Owatonna, New Ulm, Willmar, St. Cloud, and the metro area of the Twin Cities,” Mlynar continued. “It was really unbelievable that they’d come out to this little town of Lester Prairie.”
In the mid 1990s, when the highway near the sportsmen’s club was being redone, there was concern about the club’s accessibility, and the ATA shoots fell to the wayside.
“We never came back to reopening the ATA shoots out here,” Mlynar said.
Since that time, interest in league trapshooting has been high, however, and the club has several teams that participate each year.
Mlynar said the renovation projects have been a way to provide club members with a nice place to enjoy recreational activities.
“We always felt that what shooters pay for should be reinvested into the club and club grounds,” he said.
About five years ago, the five original trap houses were replaced with new, automatic machines.
“Shooters enjoy the consistent targets,” Mlynar said, adding that it also reduces long-term costs, because they don’t have to pay someone to do the work manually.
“It was a major expense, but well spent,” Mlynar said.
To learn more about the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club, or to see additional photos of the renovation, go to www.lpscmn.com.
The club is located one mile southwest of Lester Prairie on McLeod County Road 1, and can be reached at (320) 395-2829.