As a newer citizen to the Joplin community, having moved to Joplin in 2019, I have quickly fallen in love with the City and its people. Through my position as Controller at Freeman, I have been afforded the opportunity to interact and invest in the community through many businesses, organizations, and non-profits. I’ll touch on a few of these briefly as they relate to Memorial Hall. More importantly than that, we chose Joplin as a place to raise our family.
It was the job offer at Freeman that drew us to the area, but Joplin roots run deep in my family. My wife grew up in Joplin and her father’s family, the Hoffmeister’s, have been a part of this community for generations. They started the first tennis club in Joplin. So indoor recreation and activities for families are important to us. So, we as a family are excited for the potential of a community indoor recreational space. We have 3 children under the age of 6, so when I imagine the future, I imagine it has a lot of indoor sports games in our future that could be hosted at a renovated Memorial Hall.
Next, as a board member of Connect2Culture, we are imagining a future that includes bringing entertainment to Memorial Hall. We see it as a perfect complement to the Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex. The idea of the Cornell Complex, with the 2,000 capacity Leggett & Platt Green outdoor amphitheater, a vacated 8th street repurposed as “Veterans Way” and connecting to a renovated Memorial Hall provides so much exciting potential. We imagine a future where we can bring in artists to fill the 1,700-seat auditorium. Where arts and entertainment in the Cornell Complex either through Spiva art exhibits or entertainment in the 445-seat Beshore Performance Hall, can be paired with dinners and events in Memorial Hall. Our community has been wonderful to provide venues through Missouri Southern State University, Joplin High School, Ozark Christian College, Empire Market, Central Christian Center, and others. But those venues we’ve been able to rent are to serve those schools and organizations first. Memorial Hall would be a necessary venue for the future vision of Connect2Culture and arts and entertainment in our community.
Next, as an executive committee member of the Young Professionals Network, as part of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, and my involvement in non-profits such as Healthy Joplin, Aspire Scholarship Program, and others. I know how hard it can be to find a meeting space in the community, either for regular monthly meetings or for annual events. I imagine a future where Memorial Hall serves the needs of our local business and non-profit community through providing meeting and event spaces. Not to mention imagining a future where larger events such as conventions and trade shows can be held to bring visitors and investors to our community. When larger events like these can be hosted in downtown Joplin, all Joplin businesses from hotels to restaurants benefit.
Although I was not a resident of Joplin in 2011, my wife’s parents live just blocks away from the high school. I arrived as a volunteer in the community the week after the tornado and it is a sight that I will never forget. Now as a Joplin resident, having heard the stories of heroism and resilience, I can only stand in awe of this community with which I am now a member. I have heard of the role that Memorial Hall played in those days following the tornado. It was there serving the community in its darkest hour and its brightest. That is the kind of community asset that I imagine that Memorial Hall will be for the future.
Last, but not least. I imagine a future where a renovated Memorial Hall, with a new Veterans Way and beautiful memorials in front of the building, more accurately conveys the pride, honor, and reverence that this community already holds in their hearts for our veterans. To display this reverence publicly by saving and restoring a historic community landmark in their honor, but also practically by providing a meeting space for the American Legion. I imagine a future that pays tribute to our veterans and honors our heroes.
One thing I can’t imagine is a Joplin without Memorial Hall. Vote yes for your family. Vote yes for your neighbor. Vote yes for your local businesses and non-profits. Vote yes for our veterans. Vote yes for your community. Vote yes for Joplin. Vote yes for Memorial Hall.
Michael B. Sanders
Controller at Freeman Health System
Memorial Hall Citizen Committee Members