MCPHERSON — For those who don’t know, McPherson, Kansas is home to the first team in history to send players to the Olympic Games and compete in basketball as a medal sport. And they didn’t just go and play basketball at the Olympic Games. They won.
On September 29, 2020, Sutton Betti, a nationally-known artist and sculptor, was in McPherson at the Community Building with five members of his team to finalize installation of a monument he created to memorialize the McPherson Globe Refiners.
Led by Coach Gene Johnson, six McPherson Globe Refiners players helped the United States US Olympic Team win the first-ever Olympic Gold in basketball playing against Canada at the 1936 Games in Berlin, Germany. The final score of the game played outdoors in the rain was 19-8. The McPherson Community Building was the Globe Refiners home court.
Today the building has been beautifully and skillfully restored to its original 1930’s style thanks to a voter-approved half-cent sales tax and a generous revitalization contribution from CHS Refinery along with the work of many including GLMV Architecture and Hutton Construction.
And now, Betti’s sculpture ("relief" is the artistic name for it) commemorates the historical impact of the 1936 Olympic basketball team from McPherson in a large and exquisitely-detailed way. Considering The Globe Refiners were called the "Tallest Team in the World", this life-sized monument is not only stately, it is huge.
Betti has been designing and sculpting for more than 20 years. He is known and sought after for his work including realistic bronze sculptures made with incredible attention to detail. More than 20 of his sculptures have been installed around the country. He specializes in honoring members of the military, historical figures and athletes.
Early in the summer of 2019, McPherson’s Brett Reber representing the Julia J. Mingenback Foundation, contacted Betti and asked if he would be willing to come to McPherson and discuss a project. The local philanthropic organization wanted to commission a qualified artist to design, sculpt, build and install a life-sized monument commemorating the McPherson Globe Refiners basketball team at the newly restored Community Building.
Betti traveled to McPherson and met with the Mingenback Foundation Trustees and Mayor Tom Brown in July of 2019 to discuss the project. Two months later in September a contract was signed with the Foundation and Betti began assembling his team.
The monument is made of the curved, bronze relief weighing three-thousand pounds along with the stainless steel cage supporting it, set under an eight-thousand pound, precast, concrete cap and surrounded by another eight-thousand pounds of polished granite. Three large panels on the back tell the story of the team’s history with text and images laser-etched into granite that is three inches thick.
The project took more than a year to complete.
The Mingenback Foundation was established in 1959 by Gene and Mary Mingenback and has provided grants to innumerable charitable causes in McPherson County. The foundation has also emphasized art and community beautification projects through public sculptures, professional lighting of the McPherson County Courthouse and, BPU buildings and building the Wall Park Pavillion.