Training Center History
In 1984, the BASF Corporation donated 17 acres of land to the Sheriff’s Office for the purpose of building a firing range and training complex. The property, located on St. Landry Road in Gonzales, was heavily wooded and had been part of BASF buffer property.
The land was cleared with the use of equipment loaned to the Sheriff’s Office by local businessmen and operated by deputies. A significant portion of the property had been cleared by 1988, when Robert Leblanc Sr. was hired by the Sheriff and placed in charge of completing the project.
The Pontchartrain Levee Board, the Louisiana National Guard, and many local businesses contributed time and equipment to help complete the project. But, the major breakthrough occurred when Carey Arceneaux, Ascension Parish Director of Public Works, agreed to allow the use of parish equipment on weekends. With the use of this heavy equipment, operated by off-duty deputies and parish workers volunteering their time, the construction of the firing ranges shifted into high gear.
A pond was dug on the rear of the property and all backstops and side berms were constructed using this dirt. The superstructure for all of the shooting sheds was constructed with piping which was donated by local industry, with all welding being done by inmate labor.
By the end of 1989, all berms and shooting sheds on the 100-yard and 300-yard ranges were complete. The first official firearms course was conducted by the department at the new complex in January of 1990. Since the pistol qualification range had not yet been completed, the first course was a tactical course held on the 100 yard range and included the use of reactive steel targets and the deputies’ shotgun and handgun.
With the completion of the 50-yard pistol qualification range, all deputies were certified as per state standards by 1991. Although the State of Louisiana requires handgun qualification once a year, in 1992 the APSO required all enforcement-qualified deputies to qualify twice each year, and in 1993, the APSO became the first Sheriff’s Office in the state to require qualification four times a year. The next big step at the training center was the construction of a classroom facility. Construction began in 1992 on the original 40×80 classroom and office building, built with a financial donation from the East Ascension CAER Committee. Using these funds, the building was built by deputies utilizing inmate labor from both the APSO Jail and the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Carville. The classroom building was finished in 1993 and officially dedicated in January of 1994.
In 1996, the Training Center added another key piece as a live-fire shoot-house was built behind the 100-yard berm. The shoot-house, constructed of cross-ties donated by the railroad, was designed for the purpose of conducting live-fire training exercises by tactical teams. The APSO Crisis Response Team used the shoot-house for the first time on November 6, 1996.
In 1998, a ½ cent law enforcement proposition was passed with the expansion of the Training Center being a key component of the proposal. The classroom/office building was expanded from 3,200 to 5,600 square feet.
In 2004, the old cross-tie shoot-house was demolished. It was replaced in 2006 with a new shoot-house built with concrete waste-blocks. In 2010, construction was completed on two tactical sims-houses to be used for non-live-fire force-on-force training scenarios.
In 2010, construction began on a new Training Center Complex. The new complex is being built on part of an additional 64 acre tract of land adjacent to the original 17 acre site. The new tract was donated to the Sheriff’s Office in 2001 by the BASF Corporation. The new building, with over 30,000 square feet under roof, will include two theater-style classrooms, office space, a command center, a Crisis Response Team section, an industrial kitchen and dining room, a major-event logistical support section, and an open air area for the storage of major equipment assets. The new Training Center opened in October 2012.