Why stay where you're not wanted?
December 07, 2006
Springfield doesn’t want underage adults downtown. With the passage of the amendment that bans anyone under the age of 21 from all establishments that derive 60% or more of their total revenue from the sale of alcohol, its citizens on Election Day in November spoke. And its detrimental effect on enrollment at the local colleges is yet to be felt.

I am a Springfield native. My perception of the city not always has been one of "home-sweet-home." I’m not the only one with this belief. Consider the remarks of 22-year-old Missouri State University student Libby Guthrey.

“If I had to choose between, say, Missouri State and Mizzou, and I found out that I can’t even go downtown to a club in Springfield, I would probably go with Mizzou,” Guthrey said.

Guthrey moved to Springfield from Cuba, MO in 2002. She wanted to go to a school in a community that offered advantages over her small home town. She was excited about downtown Springfield her freshman year at Missouri State and frequented the area often.

“I couldn’t tell you how much money I’ve spent downtown,” said Guthrey, “and even before I was 21, I would go to shops and shows. I loved doing that stuff.”

An important part of going away to college is the freedom afforded young adults, many on their first journey away from home. The question for several of these prospective students will be: “Do I want to go to college in a town that does the parenting for me?” And my guess is that many of them will answer “no.”

A survey by the city of Springfield of local residents has shown that 84 percent believe that the city is a great place to raise a family, but that it does little to lure and keep young adults in the area.

Improving culture and creating a downtown scene that is fresh and up-beat are very important to young adults in this area. But is Springfield interested in appealing to a dissatisfied teen scene while still maintaining its traditional values? Passing a bar ban without encouraging a venue for the enjoyment of underage kids doesn’t say that it is.

“I wish that we could get more bands to play downtown,” said Guthrey, “Now that most of the great places like the Rockwell are closed, and the bar ban is in place, I would guess there’s going to be a lot less of them.”

The new amendment leads me to believe that area residents want downtown development to exclude young adults. The cost of lofts downtown and the price of a meal are beyond the reach of many of them. This is only a small step leading to the gentrification of our center city.

I asked several of my young Springfield friends what their reasons were for wanting to leave the area. Their answers coincided with mine: “There’s nothing to do here. I feel like Springfield is kind of boring. People here are mostly the same, conservative and not open to new ideas.”

The idea of leaving one's home town to move on to bigger and better things is not new, and it doesn’t only happen in our area. The biggest problem for Springfield is that more and more future leaders and potential business owners are saying "goodbye."

Residents like 22-year-old Linda Walker believe that businesses in downtown Springfield had been creating a market for young adults by providing various events that appealed to them.

“I really want culture. I was beginning to think that downtown Springfield was getting better with events like the Art Walk and great local music," Walker said, "but then I think something like the bar ban really takes us a step back.” Walker is planning on relocating to Kansas City to study fashion.

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