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Solutions for Joplin’s troubled golf course October 7, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, History, Sports.
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A few days ago, the Joplin Globe published a long article about the financial issue about the city-owned Schifferdecker Golf Course, which is on Route 66 on the west side of Joplin, Missouri.

The golf course runs an annual deficit of about $140,000 a year, and it draws about half the users it did a decade ago. It’s still booking about 20,000 rounds a year, but the course is facing a lot of imminent issues with aging golf carts and mowing equipment. And revenues aren’t robust because the city tries to keep the green fees low.

One of the possible solutions is hiring a golf pro, which will cost a little more money but will likely generate a lot more revenue, including some from the PGA. I’ve read about other struggling golf courses improve cash flow by doing this.

However, one of the things that really stick out about Schifferdecker Golf Course is this:

It is the second oldest golf course west of the Mississippi River, and it is located on Route 66.

A lot of big names from the game’s golden era have played there.

One of Garrie’s favorite stories is about Ky Laffoon, who is said to have won a $50 bet against a golfer who didn’t recognize Laffoon.

Byron Nelson, Patty Berg, Hale Irwin and Payne Stewart have also been on Joplin’s local links.
Flatt recommended the city tout the course’s history to promote it as a place to play.

I’ve been interested in Route 66 for more than 15 years, and this is the first I’ve heard about Schifferdecker’s history or those Hall-of-Famers who’ve played there. No such information is on the course’s website.

Avid golfers have a good sense of history about their sport. They love to play at places such as Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, where Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods won major championships. Schifferdecker doesn’t have that major-championship allure, of course, but it will would be cool to play on the course where Irwin — who grew up in nearby Baxter Springs, Kansas — cut his teeth.

And the notion of tourists going on a Route 66 tour of golf courses has appeal. Publications such as Golf Digest and a smattering of websites — such as this one — have taken that angle over the years.

But on its history, it seems the city of Joplin and Schifferdecker Golf Course are missing a big opportunity. They had better get on it.

(Image of Schifferdecker Golf Course entrance by Corliss Jahner via Flickr)

New Mexico continues to snub Tucumcari for a racetrack license June 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Businesses, Sports, Towns.
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The Quay County Sun newspaper last week published a well-researched story that speculates why the Route 66 town of Tucumcari, New Mexico, hasn’t been awarded a license from the state to build a horse-racing track and casino, despite a license being available for more than a year.

The proposed Coronado Park racino in Tucumcari calls for 600 slot machines and a one-mile dirt racetrack just off Route 66. It would host 55 days of horse racing each year and create an estimated 1,200 jobs. The New Mexico Racing Commission holds six licenses, and one is available after a proposed “racino” in Raton went bust a few years ago.

State officials contacted by the newspaper wouldn’t comment on why Tucumcari is denied the open license. However, the Sun said the state may be holding back for a number of reasons:

  • Doubt exists whether there is enough horse stock to keep six racetracks running.
  • Even more doubt exists whether the horse-racing industry is healthy enough for another facility. Race attendance in the United States declined 30 percent from 2006 to 2011 and shows no signs of improvement.
  • Casino officials are concerned the gaming industry has reached a saturation in the United States, especially with the rapid rise of Native American-owned casinos. And more tribal casinos are coming.
  • Questions remain whether the state can manage enough oversight over illegal doping of horses and ensuring jockey safety. A New York Times report in 2012 showed that New Mexico had the worst oversight in the country.

The Sun reports Tucumcari remains an attractive site for a new racino, with its proximity to Interstate 40 and a neighboring state — Texas — that has almost no casinos. And the promise of hundreds of jobs and thousands of new visitors undoubtedly would boost Tucumcari’s economy and perhaps halt or reverse the town’s 50-year slide.

But the proposed racino contains pitfalls, too. No one should look at a Tucumcari racino with rose-colored glasses.

(Image of downtown Tucumcari by Matt via Flickr)

Joplin’s new baseball team is called the Blasters April 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Sports, Towns.
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The name for the new American Association professional baseball team in Joplin, Mo., will be the Blasters, with a logo that includes a reference to Route 66.

The club announced the nickname and logo Monday afternoon in Joplin. The logo contains a nod to the region’s lead-mining history and the town’s old Joplin Miners ballclub, with the mascot wearing a mining helmet. The Blasters name also refers to dynamite blasting as part of ore extraction.

A Route 66 shield is in the background, and the ownership group acknowledged before the announcement a reference to Route 66 was being considered.

Thw owners chose the name from residents’ suggestions. The Blasters name came from Joplin resident Cliff Mansley, reported the Joplin Globe. He received season tickets and a suite box.

Shawn Suarez, co-owner and general manager, said Blasters is a way to honor the area’s mining heritage in a fresh and new way. […]

“I know there’s a huge group of traditionalists,” Suarez said. “When we came in, there were two camps of people we would talk to. There was one who wanted the traditionalist way, and there was one who wanted a more modern approach. The thing we’re happy with the Blasters is we think this will satisfy with both camps. If we picked Miners, there’s one section. This way, both groups of people can be represented.”

Black and gold will be the team colors.

Locals greeted the Blasters name mostly with derision on Facebook. Many hoped to resurrect the Miners name, when Joplin hosted a Yankees affiliate during the 1940s and ’50s — and two future Hall-of-Famers in Mickey Mantle and Whitey Herzog. But it’s understandable the new ownership wanted to start with a clean slate.

However, in addition to its historical ties, the Blasters name carries excellent marketing possibilities (blasting home runs, having a blast at Joe Becker Stadium … you get the idea). It brings to mind six years ago a minor-league club in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania with a seemingly clumsy name of IronPigs (a reference to the region’s pig iron and steel production days). The team’s marketing department used the name in all sorts of clever ways, fans quickly embraced it, and Lehigh Valley went on to set minor-league attendance records.

The ownership group recently began multimillion-dollar renovations of historic Joe Becker Stadium, and the first pitch will be in May 2015.

Mansley made this observation:

“It’s time to have some fun in Joplin. … We’ve had enough of the heartache of the tornado. It’s time to move on and move up and trust that the good Lord has some new things for us. This is one of those new things that will be a lot of fun. We want to bring families together. We want to bring the community together, and this is a great way to do it.”

The amazing story of Joe Bauman April 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, People, Sports.
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Famed sportswriter Joe Posnanski a few days ago wrote about Joe Bauman, who set a professional baseball record of 72 home runs in a season in 1954.

That record stood until Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001.

The hot, dry air of the region and smallish ballparks of the Longhorn League undoubtedly helped Bauman set the record.

But Bauman, at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, didn’t hit many cheap home runs, either. He reportedly blasted a 500-footer during his big season that landed in the middle of an adjacent rodeo — sparking a lot of jubilant hollering from the cowboys. And he had other seasons in which he hit 48, 50 and 53 home runs.

In addition to those 72 homers, Bauman’s 1954 season featured 35 doubles, three triples, 224 RBI, 188 runs scored, a .400 batting average and an eye-popping .916 slugging average (which is higher than any major-league mark) in just 138 games. Bauman never made it to the major leagues, but his record season brought him national fame anyway.

The whole story by Posnanski is worth reading. A few tidbits to let you know why this is relevant to Route 66:

  • Bauman co-owned a Texaco gas station and tire shop on Route 66 for many years, and worked there during the off-season.
  • Bauman was born in Welch, Okla., close to Mickey Mantle’s Route 66 hometown of Commerce, Okla. He grew up in Oklahoma City.
  • His baseball career included stints in Amarillo and Elk City, Okla. And Albuquerque was part of the league in which Bauman played.

He finished his career — all in the minor leagues — with a .337 average, 337 home runs and an amazing .702 slugging average. Bauman died in Roswell, N.M., in 2005 at age 83.

Bauman’s Baseball Reference page is here. A more detailed biography can be found at the Society for American Baseball Research can be found here.

Overview of the 2013 Route 66 Marathon February 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Sports.
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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma yesterday posted this video below about the 2013 edition of the Route 66 Marathon, held in Tulsa in November.

Blue Cross / Blue Shield is a major sponsor of the marathon, but the video serves as an excellent overview of it regardless. In a relatively short time, the Route 66 Marathon has become a major event in Tulsa:

The 26.2-mile course goes over portions of the earlier Admiral Place alignment of Route 66 and a portion of the 11th Street / Southwest Boulevard alignment.

The 2014 edition of the Route 66 Marathon is Nov. 22-23.

(Image of the 2013 Route 66 Marathon medal by AZ_Michael via Flickr)

Route 66 makes brief appearance in Chrysler Super Bowl ad February 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Sports, Television, Vehicles.
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The advertisement Chrysler aired tonight during the 2014 Super Bowl will forever be labeled as the “Bob Dylan Chrysler ad” — mostly because of the surprising appearance by the famously reticent singer-songwriter.

But a Missouri Route 66 shield also makes an appearance. You’ll see it about the 20-second mark.

Chrysler has produced a few superb ads in recent years, notably the Enimem “Imported from Detroit” spot. This wasn’t a bad one, but it felt as if someone shoehorned a bit of Dylan’s vernacular into it.

By the way, this isn’t the first time Dylan’s been mentioned in Route 66 News. We delved into the bizarre (and debunked) rumor that he once lived in the Route 66 town of Gallup, N.M. back in 2012.

UPDATE 2/6/2014: A historian writing for CNN points out that Dylan has flouted expectations for his entire career. So, in a way, the ad on Super Sunday was nothing new.

(Image of Bob Dylan by erjkprunczyk via Flickr)

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