Having moved myself and my family to Joplin to start a new business in 1995, I proudly call myself a Joplinite. I now have deep roots here and desire to see my city prosper and flourish. Growing up in Fayetteville, AR, my mother used to bring me to Joplin where we would shop and attend events. It is bittersweet now as I watch our community citizens travel to other areas, including NWA, to spend their money and be entertained. I can tell you that the tipping point to the growth in Fayetteville occurred when the citizens of that city voted to build a meeting and conference center downtown. A Hilton hotel soon built next door and an energy and excitement was unleashed in that area that continues to this day.
Is it possible that the upcoming bond election to renovate and expand Memorial Hall could lead to something similar? I absolutely believe it can. If you have not looked at the plans for Memorial Hall should the bond issue pass, I encourage you to do so. It’s will literally be rebuilt on the inside and expanded to add much needed state-of-the art meeting and conference space that will produce revenue for our city.
The theme for this election is “Honor the Past, Imagine the Future” and I believe it is on point. It is critical to our children that we continue to honor the veterans that fought and gave their lives for our country. Having seen the plan to do that in this project, it will be something that will stir our children’s appreciation and patriotism.
Over the years the companies and organizations in our city have struggled locating event space in Joplin. When Hammons Convention Center closed the situation only worsened. Today, many large events that could and would be held at Memorial Hall are now holding their events across state lines at venues in Kansas and Oklahoma. The “big five” non-profit organizations in Joplin now hold their annual fund raisers outside of our city due to lack of a suitable facility in our own town. This project would allow these and many other organizations to return their events to Joplin, where they belong.
As the founder of the Joplin Memorial Run, I see the positive economic impact these types of events bring to our city. Before Memorial Hall became unusable, we held our expo and pre-race banquet at Memorial Hall. These events brought 2500 to 3000 runners to Memorial Hall to spend money and hear nationally known runners speak. We would gladly return these events to Memorial Hall if the building were renovated and expanded.
Not only could Memorial Hall bring back meetings, conferences and entertainment events lost but it would give the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau a fabulous venue to market and bring in conventions and conferences that they can’t even consider now. Citizens would have a place to gather and meet. Employers would have one more community amenity to show off to potential employees and their families as they consider re-locating to our community.
I am not one to blindly support a tax increase, even one that will sunset as this one will, when I do not believe in the cause. I believe in this cause. The citizens of Joplin have an opportunity to not only imagine the future but to make it a reality. To bring many existing and potential events back to downtown Joplin. To bring lost dollars back to Joplin. To improve our resident’s quality of life. Our businesses and organizations need this, our city needs this, and our citizens and veterans need and deserve a facility like this. I urge you to vote yes for a better future on April 5th.
Citizens Committee Member