Written by Tony Robyn, Director of Business Attraction and Retention, MOKAN Partnership
Twenty-two years ago, my wife and I answered the call and moved to Joplin. This community eagerly embraced us, which only added to the appeal we found here. We planted our roots and have since raised our daughter and built our lives here.
At that time, I had been asked to help the City of Joplin and its community develop the nature center project at Wildcat Park. To help that early community partnership get started, the City provided me with some small office space at Memorial Hall.
New to the community, it was during this time that I saw and participated in a myriad of events held in that same building: public meetings, class reunions, daddy-daughter dances, arts and craft shows, concerts, comedy shows, festivals, and even a rodeo. Working in the building, I saw firsthand the unique character of spaces and design that not only enhanced these events and activities, but also added to the history and cultural fabric of downtown for so many years.
We booked nature center fundraisers in Memorial Hall as there weren’t enough community spaces available for those types of activities. As we did our own business planning for the park project, the need for a community event space was voiced by the public.
From the operational side, even then the building needed attention with a leaky roof, old electrical wiring, a settling foundation, and cracked, dated concrete. These were no small issues, but the City diligently patched them up with resources available to ensure that Memorial Hall could remain part of our community.
Despite these issues, Memorial Hall has steadfastly served a variety of functions in addition to its founding legacy of honoring veterans and providing meeting and support space for those who have served in the armed forces, including myself.
In my current role in community and economic development for both the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and the regional MOKAN Partnership, I’m again seeing firsthand the importance of this legacy and downtown event space. Often, existing businesses looking to expand their footprint, or others looking to relocate, seek these types of assets to entertain employees and their families and use for business events, meetings, and opportunities.
Until recently, Memorial Hall has been an important place for community gatherings and events, and could be again, even more so with the new adjacent Cornell Complex. These properly funded facilities working side by side at the heart of our resurging downtown can anchor important events, business conventions, expositions, and much more. This is something we needed when I first arrived in Joplin and it’s something we still need today.
The value of Memorial Hall is more than just an old brick building; it’s an important piece of our cultural heritage and DNA, and it can continue to be so with this investment. The loss of another historical and iconic community center after so many similar losses over many years would be devastating. Investing in this facility — and it should be looked at as an investment — is recognizing its importance in our history while also securing its place in our future so it can continue to meet so many of our community’s needs.
To learn more about Question 1 and the election on April 5, 2022, click here.