Two MacMurray Buyers Look To Keep Campus’ Essence Alive With New Ownership

By Benjamin Cox on November 25, 2020 at 6:48pm

MacMurray College’s official sale has neared its completion. Chairman of the MacMurray Board of Trustees, John Nicolay announced today in a press release that formal contracts have been signed for all 18 tracts of the campus that were auctioned off two weeks ago.

Two of the buyers of the heart of the campus are looking to keep the essence of the college alive. Local real estate developer Michael Hayes and Contractor and Routt Baseball coach Ryan Turner purchased the two largest pieces of the campus.

Hayes purchased the north portion of the campus including Katherine Hall, Rutledge Hall, the tennis court, Rutledge Lawn, the Putnam-Springer building, Mac Hall, Annie Merner Chapel, and McClelland Dining Hall.

Hayes says he hopes to have the tradition of weddings and events at McClelland Dining Hall and Annie Merner Chapel tie in with another development he is currently finishing on the east side of Jacksonville: “We are going to incorporate that with Water’s Edge Winery out on East Morton Avenue. It’s going to be a wedding and event venue, and actually going to incorporate Annie Merner Chapel and McClelland Dining Hall into and basically continue to host weddings at the chapel. McClelland Dining Hall will be an event venue for some of our larger events. A lot of the inquiries I get about weddings are for pretty large weddings. When we are allowed to have large gatherings again, we are going to need something for those larger events. That’s really the plan for Annie Merner and McClelland Dining Hall to basically be a part of the picture with the winery to host the large events. We’ll make it available for events like it always has been.”

Hayes says he is already in talks with the Kiwanis to continue hosting the annual Pancake and Sausage Day next year. Hayes could not divulge information on the Putnam-Springer buildings but he says an announcement would be forthcoming. Hayes says he took over the maintenance of all the grounds for the college in June, and said he gained extra appreciation for the buildings and the campus.

Hayes says overall his purchases helped to preserve the aesthetic of the college and he is going to work with his neighbor Ryan Turner to the south on his future plans. He says his purchase of Katherine Hall, Rutledge Hall and lawn came together over the last few days: “Everybody is really going to work together, I think, to preserve the integrity of the campus and the appearance of the campus. We are really excited about it. I think we can attract something to Jacksonville. Basically, what I want to do with MacMurray Hall, Katherine Hall, and Rutledge is attract something new. Obviously something educational would make a lot of sense. I know Ryan has talked a little bit about having a trade school. I think that makes a lot of sense. I think there are other types of training facilities that make a lot of sense there. We will be working together on that. Getting sales tract 2 and 4 really helped to sort of round everything out, so we really got control of virtually the entire campus with the exception of the south campus with the 3 dormitories down there, the football field, and Jane Hall.”

Hayes says he also looks forward to working with the other new adjacent property owners of Jane Hall, the quonset hut, and old Norris hospital hoping that the owners will spark new development and make use of the building. Hayes also recently received help with his purchases of the property, as the Jacksonville City Council approved this past Monday night a $100,000 loan from the city’s revolving loan fund, which will be paid back over the next 15 years.

Ryan Turner says he hopes to bring his experience with his painting and construction business to the campus to possibly make a local trade school for the old Educational Complex, the Jenkins Science building, the Education Complex, and the library. He says the project is in its infancy but is receiving a lot of local support so far: “My thoughts were definitely to have a school for masonry, painting, dry wall finishing, carpentry, plumbing. Some of the, at least in our area, very limited number of contractors and even very limited numbers for those contractors. I feel like that could really benefit the workforce around here. Then, we are connect with quite a few larger general contractors across the country, and they are in constant need as well for employees. We feel like whether it would be painting, dry wall finishing, carpentry, masonry, any of those type of trade, roofing – if we get some of those individuals equipped well enough just to be even a little bit above entry level employee, we could get them placed very quickly.”

Turner says he hopes to continue to use the baseball field and the Bill Wall Gymnasium for their natural purposes: “The baseball field is a really nice field. It’s got a great playing surface with some unique dugouts. We hope that we can partner with Future Champions Field on the overflow weekend that they have, which they have many weekends where there facilities are actually fully booked. We look to partner with them on some weekends for that field. We look to be able to rent that field. There are numerous teams around our area that are just looking for field spaces. In the COVID world, a lot of schools are shutting down their facilities not allowing non-school teams to use them, so that has created a bigger need for field space.”

Turner says he hopes the gym can be used for basketball and volleyball leagues and possibly be an overflow gym for large local tournaments like the Elementary school’s Morgan County basketball tournament. Turner says he doesn’t foresee Routt moving any of their home fields to either location at this time. He says there is also plans to either rehabilitate or renovate the Olympic size swimming pool at the Educational Complex, but he’s not sure how much work needs to be done. He says his main reason to purchase the land tracts was to ensure that something like the Jacksonville Developmental Center’s vacancy happens ever again in Jacksonville.

Both men said they want to see the building used while continuing to build the Jacksonville community.

Nicolay says closings are scheduled to take place by the end of the year with most expected within the next 30 days. He says sales prices and terms will become official in late December once all individual sales transactions have been completed. Bid totals at the November 12th auction were approximately $1.35 million. All of the parties said they would be releasing more information about the future development of the properties when deemed appropriate after sales are deemed fully closed.