VALPARAISO — Construction has begun on a new 8,100-square-foot indoor shooting range. 

Emerald Coast Indoor Shooting and Sport, owned by former Crestview resident and NBA player Tom Hammonds, celebrated its groundbreaking Friday.

Hammonds, accompanied by Valparaiso city officials, colleagues and friends, shoveled and tossed sand onto the plot of land on Valparaiso Parkway to signal construction crews to begin their work. Hammonds said he decided to build the range after identifying a "tremendous" need for one in the area.

"The nearest indoor gun range for me is roughly 45 to 50 miles away," Hammonds said. "There is nothing in this immediate area — Crestview, Freeport, Niceville, Fort Walton Beach and Destin. People needed a place to come, enjoy and learn the safe way of how to discharge firearms."

Emerald Coast Indoor Shooting and Sport, set to open late this year or early in 2019, will feature 15 shooting lanes, five of those being 15-yard rifle lanes and the others 10-yard pistol lanes. The facility will also feature a large classroom and a fully stocked 1,800-square-foot retail area. 

Hammonds said the classroom will be used for Florida Concealed Weapons Permit classes, NRA-pproved classes, and pistol/rifle/shotgun classes for beginners to advanced shooters. The retail area will sell a wide variety of firearms, along with accessories and ammunition.

The range will also host official indoor shooting competitions and other independent events such as bowling pin and bulls-eye competitions.

During the ceremony, Hammonds emphasized that the shooting range belongs to "us," the community. He said he's excited for everyone to enjoy the facility.

"With the amount of military we have in the area, those guys like to come out and practice and discharge their firearms," he said. "It's hot, then it's cold, then it's rainy. So the need was specifically there for us to open an indoor gun range. It's just the time to do it."