By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Athletics in Joplin have come full circle during the last 75 years.
First Joplin Junior College used Joplin High School facilities for its sports activities, and in the last two years, the high school has used some of Missouri Southern’s facilities.
Joplin Junior College opened in 1937, and it used Joplin High School facilities for its football and basketball games .
The football team played its home games at Junge Field. That stadium continued to serve as the home field for JJC for 27 years, Jasper County Junior College for three years and Missouri Southern State College for seven years. The Lions won their 1972 NAIA semifinal and championship games at Junge.
The Lions’ football games moved on campus in 1975 with the opening of Fred G. Hughes Stadium.
The junior college played home basketball games in the high school gymnasium and the YMCA gymnasium during the early years.
When the college became a four-year school in 1968, basketball games moved on campus to the 1,700-seat Robert Ellis Young Gymnasium.
Joplin High School had used Missouri Southern facilities for some events, such as the boys basketball Kaminsky Classic in January and graduation in May. Thankfully graduation was held at MSSU’s Leggett & Platt Athletic Center on May 22, 2011.
Minutes after graduation ceremonies concluded that day, an EF5 tornado hit Joplin and destroyed the Joplin High School campus.
Joplin High now needed a place to play home games, and Missouri Southern was there to help.
The Eagles held their softball games and practices at the MSSU softball complex.
And the boys and girls basketball games and practices were held at Robert Ellis Young Gymnasium.
“The volleyball team, basketball teams, soccer, baseball ... we just didn’t know where we were going to go,” Joplin athletics director Jeff Starkweather said. “Missouri Southern was great to us, the city has been great to us, allowing us to use their facilities. ... People stepped up and helped us out, and we’re very grateful for that.”