While driving near the intersection of Main Street and Elizabeth, it may seem like just another quiet night.
But a closer look at two newly-painted brick walls might indicate the excitement is all beneath the surface.
Downtown Underground is a new club in McPherson that is scheduled to officially open later this month. Although open to adults of all ages, the entertainment will be geared to individuals age 30 and above.
The renovation of the old, sub-level facility is the brainchild of McPherson residents Ricky Byrd and Sandra Price-Byrd.
“I will turn 51 in January, and I know a lot of people in our generation feel like in our community, there’s nothing club-wise that is geared toward 30 and over,” Sandra said.
This club aims to change that.
Underground will be open Thursday through Sunday nights and will feature jazz and blues-style music. There will be a house DJ present on Saturday nights, unless there is a scheduled live performance. Some once-famous performers already have looked into booking a night at the club.
Depending on the night, various themes will surround the evening’s repertoire, such as country western, Latino, ballroom, salsa and 1950s and 1960s.
“We’re going to be doing a little bit of everything,” Byrd said.
But although the music will vary, the dress code will not. A door manager will regulate who can enter the facility, denying T-shirts, tennis shoes, saggy jeans and profanity.
There also will be a cost for membership, with varying tiers. Those with a VIP membership will receive discounts on drinks and gain admittance to a special VIP room, complete with comfortable sitting areas, h’orderves and a bar.
On the surface level, across from Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk and Lloyd, are two small brick buildings, which are the two entrances to the facility. On those walls, as well as underground, are graffiti art of various pictures, including music notes, famous performers and instruments.
As guests enter the west entrance, they will follow steps down a dark stairwell, lit with red lights. On the stairs is dripping red paint, which Byrd says was inspired by the blood of Jesus Christ.
The lower level boasts a maize of rooms, which can be closed off depending on the occasion. Moving forward through black swinging doors, guests would be greeted by a large, red concrete dance floor, colored concert lights, a bar, and a small performance stage. At the right of this area is a large, carpeted seating area for about 300 people.
The intention was a facility where the community could come together, have somewhere to go locally, and also draw in others from other cities.
“Ricki and I are about seeing our community grow, because we live and work here,” Byrd said, adding this happens when locals have somewhere they can go and feel comfortable.
“We want you to come here and feel good about yourself,” Byrd said. “I’m a giver, and I want to see people happy, because if they’re not happy, they act up. But if you have a good night and come to work and you’re all excited, then that spirit is carried on to the next person, and the next person.”
Although the project is on the home stretch, it didn’t come together all at once. Byrd — originally planning to move her Body Construction and McPherson School of Karate and Martial Arts school elsewhere — came upon the building. As she and her husband were working on it, they realized the open space would be excellent as a dance floor, stirring the ideas of an old aspiration. They spent many nights getting it prepared and are in the process of finalizing it with the city.
“They’re recognizing we need things, and they were extremely fair,” she said. “They’re working with us.”
More recently, the facility has been broken in by smaller parties and curious community members.
“People are like, ‘This looks like something that should be in Chicago,’” Byrd said.
But the club isn’t just for dancing older adults. Byrd has a vision for it to be used for a varying spectrum of occasions, such as class reunions or birthday parties, by appointment. Every area of the facility can be blocked off, and all areas with alcohol have combination locks. This way, the venue provides an unprecedented resource for the community.
“We’re trying to provide something that the whole community and Kansas can enjoy,” Byrd said. “If we don’t have people supporting our own community, where is it going to be in the next five or 10 years?”
Overall, it is Byrd’s vision for bringing people together that has pushed her to achieve.
“This will give our community some diversity,” she said.