MURDO — Standing outside Murdo’s new Turner Community Center — once the town’s movie theater — Ted Turner couldn’t help draw a distinction between Wednesday’s scenario and that from a classic film.
“It’s like ‘The Last Picture Show,’” he said. “Only this is the first one.”
Wednesday, Turner, members of the Jones County Turner Youth Foundation and more than 50 people from the community celebrated the opening of town’s new community center, funded in large part by the Turner Foundation.
“I’m just amazed and tickled to death,” Turner said of a project led by Murdo youths.
“I’m really proud of them. That was what the whole youth initiative was about — to empower youths to get together and do something worthwhile, not watch too much TV.
“If you can do this, you can do anything.”
Carson Moore, a Jones County High School senior and the junior president of the youth foundation, said the four years of work that led up to Wednesday’s ribbon cutting was challenging but rewarding.
“It’s nice to have it done,” he said. “We’re excited to have something new to do in town.”
The project, renovating the 1940s movie theater that closed in the 70s, required more than 2,000 hours of work and $96,000 — $67,000 of that from the Turner Foundation.
“I think it will be huge not only for the kids,” said Kevin Moore, an adult director on the youth foundation. “It’s a place for families to come and watch a movie. They don’t have to drive 60 miles to see a movie.”
Kevin Moore said the center can be used for meetings and rented out for birthday parties. It will be used primarily to show films on DVD and Blu-Ray on Saturday nights.
Volunteers will run the center and rely on contributions to keep it open.
“This is an opportunity for older people in town to come to a theater and have a bag of popcorn and a pop and watch a movie in a movie environment,” Kevin Moore said.
Turner, who acquired Bad River Ranch in Stanley County in 1999, said he comes to South Dakota as often as he can, including in the fall for pheasant hunting.
Wednesday evening, his ranch was set to transfer black-footed ferrets, an endangered species, to a release site.
He said he would like to keep up with the Turner Foundation project more than he is able to.
“I don’t get this opportunity all the time,” he said. “We have so many projects going in so many different places. I think we have 50 different projects going at any one time.”
For local man Carl Prahl, the new center is hoped to be a new beginning for the downtown.
“It’s good to have life back in Murdo.” he said.