Wayne Burns, Public Lands and Facilities Director for McPherson, looked across the gymnasium at the Community Building, 122 E. Marlin, Thursday and puffed up with a bit of pride.
Not only because the old building is being made new again, but because of the history within its walls.
“This is the home of the Global Refiners, the first gold medal basketball team,” Burns said. “This is where they played games and practiced.”
The gymnasium, which will once again host sporting events when it reopens, will tell the story of the Globe Refiners. They are immortalized in the renovated gymnasium.
The building also contained a theater, which has been converted into a multipurpose room, But the history, again is preserved. Coming up a stairway out of the basement, one wall contains the signatures of actors who were in shows in days gone by.
The building will reopen soon — with a middle school volleyball game on the schedule next week. The public is invited to an open house and ribbon cutting from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 17. Tours and refreshments will be provided.
Nick McQueen was hired as Event Manager for the Community Building. — and he has been busy this late summer with placing furniture and managing crews as they put the finishing touches on the building.
“This fills a need that people have been saying we need for a while,” McQueen said. “There are places in town that rent out rooms for conferences and weddings and things like that. They are all great, but none of them have this kind of space. We are looking to host 250 to 350 people for events in this main hall.”
Built in 1928, the Community Building has been a gathering place for community events. The facility was listed last year on the National Register of Historic Places.
Historically, the auditorium served as a venue for theater performances, talent shows and movies. The gymnasium was home court to the McPherson Globe Refiners basketball team, which formed the core group for the first Olympic gold medal championship in 1936. Community dinners, carnivals, fairs and fundraisers occurred along the way.
That history is preserved — from how the gymnasium floor was painted to the keeping of some theater seats in what was once the balcony.
“McPherson is a sports town, and there are not enough gymnasiums in town,” McQueen said. “... McPherson does such a great job of preserving its history, and this really is a part of that.”
In 2008, voters chose to support the building’s renovation with a half-cent sales tax. Preparation included numerous studies, committees and discussions. The final project was designed by architect GLMV from Wichita, and design/build contractor Hutton Construction of McPherson.
Renovations began in late 2017 with the removal of the metal siding on the north side, which returned the front façade to its original design. The gymnasium was also restored to its original 1930s style with an exposed ceiling, wooden floors and three-sided balcony. The new gym floor showcases the Globe Oil and Refining Company and the current CHS Refinery. CHS contributed $116,800 to support revitalization efforts. The court will be accessible for full-court basketball and volleyball. Cross-courts will also be available for numerous sports.
Monday, the city commission approved a contract with the school district, allowing for the gym to be used by middle school volleyball and basketball teams through the month of January.
The auditorium was converted from a theater to a convention space with meeting rooms on the second-floor balcony. A level floor was placed over the seating area, which can be removed if future generations determine the need to reverse the space back to a theater. The stage area was converted into an industrial kitchen for community meals and special events.
“We put in a new sound system in here, one of the best you can get,” Burns said.
The upstairs meeting rooms will be named to honor both the building history and the City of McPherson. Rooms will hold 10 to 20 people in a conference-style setting with a television screen and video conferencing capability. Renovations also include new rooftop heating and air conditioning systems, wireless internet, a large projector and projection wall, a built-in sound system and an elevator.
Those interested in renting space or taking tours can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 620.798.7788.