Springfield, MO

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by Eddie Bass

Except for a little over three years I spent in the Air Force during World War II, I've lived in Springfield all of my life.

For your information, that's going on 75 years.

That's a long, long, time.

During those years, I've seen a lot of things happen in this community.

I've seen dramatic changes in our city government.

I've seen it go from a scandal-ridden mayor-commission form of government to a whistle-clean (if somewhat impersonal) council-manager form.

I've seen the city make foolish decisions about Park Central Square, decisions which have wasted hundreds of thousands in tax dollars.

Not only have those decisions wasted money, but there's little doubt they have contributed to the demise of downtown as a shopping center. The late Arch Bay, who was about as astute a businessman as I've ever known, always contended that closing the square to traffic killed downtown.

What's all of this reminiscing leading up to?

These recollections are leading up to comment on the Feb. 3 election.

There isn't much question that the decisions voters reached in that election will have a profound effect on Springfield's future.

There's even talk that the things increasing the hotel/motel tax will bring could result in Springfield moving into the big-city class. And there's also talk that the election signals the beginning of a new era of leadership in our community.

I don't think I'd go that far, but there's no question about the importance of the election.

Ice rinks ... a unique, community-unifying park ... a world-class fish and wildlife museum ... funds to help restore the Gillioz and Landers theaters ... these all are projects that will enhance the quality of life in Springfield.

Because of the opposition of a few folks to the location of the fish and wildlife museum near Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, frankly I was somewhat fearful of the outcome of the election.

So, the museum may lure a few more potential customers to Outdoor World. So what? For that matter, I question whether Bass Pro Shops will break even on the deal.

Drury College president Dr. John Moore, who has been the organizing chairman of the board for the not-for-profit museum, has pointed out that Bass Pro Shops now has an income of about $800,000 a year from admission being charged to the makeshift museum already set up there.

So, Johnny Morris will lose $800,000 a year in museum income. And he has pledged to contribute $10 million to the estimated $40 million construction cost for the museum. His contribution will be in the land on which the museum will be built, artifacts in the museum and cash.

In other words, independent appraisers will put a value on the land and artifacts, then Morris has pledged to donate cash which would bring his total contribution to $10 million.

The museum is the brainchild of Morris, although legally it will be a not-for-profit venture.

As his brainchild, the museum will be a first-class, even world-class, operation. Of that you may be sure, because whatever Johnny Morris does, he does it right.

All you have to do is to look at his creations, such as Big Cedar Lodge, Top of the Rock Golf Course and Dining Room and his boat-building ventures.

Golfer Jack Nicklaus put it this way when he played a dedicatory round at the Top of the Rock Course recently:

"This place," Nicklaus declared, "is strictly first-class. They spent more on cart paths than most people would spend on the whole golf course."

It's enough to make me wish I was going to be around another 75 years to see what's going to happen in our community.

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