McPherson Community Building earns state award

Chad Frey
A project to restore the McPherson Community Building that wrapped up in 2019 has just picked up an award from the Kansas Preservation Alliance.

A project to restore the McPherson Community Building that wrapped up in 2019 has just picked up an award.

The Kansas Preservation Alliance announced this week that the 2020 Medallion Award has been presented to the McPherson Community Building in McPherson.

Every year, the Kansas Preservation Alliance  awards the Medallion Award for "Excellence to a preservation project that exemplifies the alliance’s mission to the preservation of Kansas’ heritage through education, advocacy and alliances with like-minded individuals."

Built in 1928 at 122 E. Marlin, 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,” said Nick McQueen, in 2019. He was hired as Event Manager for the Community Building. ”... 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.

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.

The upstairs meeting rooms 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.

Make no mistake, the building is a homage to the Globe Refiners — an Olympic Gold basketball team. The team was operated by the Globe Refinery in South McPherson that is now known as CHS.

According to the Kansas Preservation Alliance, since 1929, the farmer-owned co-op refinery in south McPherson has been an integral part of the community. Originally named Globe Refinery (now CHS), they created and sponsored community basketball team, the Globe Refiners, that eventually went on to represent the United States in the 1936 Olympics in Munich, Germany, winning the first U.S. gold medal that year. That winning team used the McPherson Community Building gymnasium as their practice and exhibition court, immortalizing the building in the history of McPherson. Much of the team’s memorabilia is presently housed in the building’s lobby.

In 2020 statue of the Globe Refiners team was installed outside of the community building.

There are still ongoing attempts to have those members of the Globe Refiners Basketball Team who were also integral to the 1936 Men’s Olympic Gold Medal Basketball Team to be added to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

After the Globe Refiners, the McPherson American Legion basketball team was formed in 1949 and in 1950 won the National Title Event, — hosted in the building’s gymnasium. Also, this has been the home court for the McPherson Public Schools and Central Christian College in years past.

In addition to a sports history, the building has served as a community gathering space, hosting McPherson Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners for more than 20 years. Since 1948 it has hosted the Kiwanis annual pancake breakfast.

In the early 1970’s there was a push to demolish the building to open up additional space for the downtown. However, the community rallied around the building, leading to a renovation project instead.   On August 6, 1974, a bond issue to renovate the building was passed by voters. The renovation included adding a new (north) front to the building including corner additions. The additions and renovations incorporated bathroom additions on the northeast and northwest corners, a new boiler, a new roof, a rubberized gymnasium floor, a metal panel façade on the north elevation, and replacement windows on the south façade, a dressing room, a small meeting room, new gym floor (uni-turf), carpeting, a new length of gym ceiling tile, remodeling of the stage, removing the northeast exterior exit door and adjacent glazing in the gymnasium and replacing it with an overhead door, removing the east mezzanine in the gymnasium and selective masonry repointing.

And then came the project in the 2000s, supported by sales taxes to restore the building to its current state.