For alumni and friends who have not been back to Kirksville in quite some time, certain elements of town and the campus might look a little different. The community has seen steady improvement in recent years, and the progress is starting to show.
In December 2015, Kraft Heinz announced a $250 million expansion of its facilities in Kirksville. The deal included a guarantee the company would employ in the neighborhood of 500 full-time positions through 2026. Commercially, the area has seen a ripple effect, with more stores and restaurants having already opened, or with plans to do so in the near future.
Among the new businesses in town are two hotels, one near the North Park complex and one at the south end of town near the intersection of Franklin Street and Highway 63. The additional hotel rooms should make it easier for visitors to find lodging during graduations, Homecoming and Family Day. The increase will afford Truman the opportunity to host expanded athletic events such as conference tournaments and championships. Information on securing a room can be found at visitkirksville.com.
Members of the Kirksville community have also come together to support various infrastructure projects. In April 2016, voters overwhelmingly supported extending the economic development sales tax, which had previously been used to aid in the expansion of Highway 63 to four lanes and the bypass project. A majority of the revenue is now invested in repairing and maintaining the local streets, with about 25 percent of the funds directed toward economic development.
The following April, voters went to the polls in support of a half-cent parks and recreation sales tax predicted to generate an estimated $1.2 million annually for the city’s parks and programs during the next 15 years. A new aquatic center is part of the plan with the passage of the tax, the location of which is still to be determined.
An all-volunteer community organization is working to construct a four-mile paved trail system connecting Thousand Hills State Park with the city. The Forest Lake Area Trail System (FLATS) has been in operation since 2009, and the first of a three-phase project was completed in December 2015 with the addition of an eight-foot wide concrete path between the park’s campground and marina areas. FLATS received a $147,000 federal grant to help complete the next phase of the project – a .7-mile section running west from Osteopathy Street on the south side of Missouri Trail – and expects to begin construction in spring 2018. The group has collaborated with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the city, county and the National Park Service to ensure the trail meets the needs of all residents. Fundraising efforts have included partnerships with area businesses, and, most notably, the FLATS Uncle Sam 5K Run during the Independence Day holiday and the FLATS Trail Half Marathon each fall.
Specific to Truman, the University continues to maintain the aesthetic charm of campus and the structural integrity of its buildings, all while operating on a tight budget. This fall saw the reopening of Baldwin Hall, which had been shuttered during the previous school year while the nearly 80-year-old building received upgrades including new heating, air conditioning, lighting, plumbing, wiring, walls and flooring.
Since opening in 1938, Baldwin Hall had seen little in the way of renovation. An elevator was added in the late 1980s, and the building received some structural attention to the exterior in the summer of 2012. Previously, the largest capital improvement to Baldwin Hall included the addition of the auditorium in 1959. Under the recently completed renovation, the auditorium received new paint and updated lighting.
While Baldwin Hall might be most widely known for its auditorium, much of the 85,000-square-foot building is dedicated to academics and student services. The first floor is now home to the Study Abroad Office, the Center for International Students and the Multicultural Affairs Center. Along with 47 offices for faculty members and GTRAs, the rest of the building now houses two large classrooms, two seminar rooms and 12 general classrooms. Other academic areas include five collaborative study rooms, two foreign language computer labs and six dedicated foreign language tutor rooms. Additional functional spaces include six music practice rooms, interfaith prayer spaces and two conference/meeting rooms, as well as informal lounges and study spaces on all three floors. A major component of the update is new restrooms on all three floors.
On the other end of campus, Stokes Stadium received several notable improvements in the previous year. New turf and a new, larger track were unveiled in the fall. Additionally, a new press box was added, primarily with funding provided by private donors after years of the Office of Advancement pursing gifts specifically for the project. The press box facility includes a new ticket booth on the ground level, an elevator, restrooms, two hospitality suites and six suites that are used for game operations.
Notable projects still in store for the campus include continued work on the mall. The area between the Student Union Building and McClain Hall was renovated in 2015. Currently, the Office of Advancement is conducting a brick campaign to renovate the remaining area directly to the east of the Student Union Building (click here). More information on that project, including how to purchase a personalized brick for the campaign, can be found at 150plaza.truman.edu.