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Anderson superintendent proposes closing Wigwam

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Anderson's school superintendent has proposed closing the city's most famous landmark — the Wigwam gym complex that is the world's second-largest high school basketball venue — as part of a plan that also includes cutting 65 teachers' jobs.

Closing and selling the iconic gym was one of the recommendations Superintendent Felix Chow listed at a school board meeting Tuesday, The Herald Bulletin reported.

The 9,000-seat Wigwam, built in 1962 on Anderson High School's campus, is the second largest such venue in the world, ranked behind the Fieldhouse in New Castle.

But the aging structure, which was mostly recently renovated in 2002, is also a drain on the Anderson Community Schools' budget. The district paid nearly $350,000 in utility bills for the gym in 2008, while it generated less than $8,000 from events, including a campaign stop by Hillary Rodham Clinton that attracted more than 6,000 people.

School officials have discussed closing the Wigwam before, but never received board approval. Supporters see the gym as a rich trove of Indiana basketball lore, and the gym even has its own fan website.

Closing the Wigwam is just part of the five-year plan Chow unveiled Tuesday. Chow's plan also includes cutting 82 jobs including 65 teacher positions, introducing all-day kindergarten and basing grade promotions on students' competence.

The plan is designed to meet school board goals that include eliminating the district's budget deficit by 2015.

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  • Wigwam
    @BerwickGuy, the knuckleheads are the people that keep a facility open when they can't afford to run it. Anderson doesn't have the population anymore to fill such a building, the schools are underperforming, and they are practically broke. Is their priority maintaining a building or providing education?
  • Hate to see the day
    No way they only made $8,000 from events...that is not the whole balance sheet for certain. Having said that, I am sure they are nowhere remotely near break even. There are alternative classes held there, offices for some staff...none of that is being mentioned here. That is part of the reason utility bills are high there...they are trying to imply that it is just 11 basketball games a year and nothing else...it is used much more than that, and for actual schooling. Having said that, it is a giant building, and a memorial to a time that no longer exists...there is no way to justify keeping it open on a cost basis...you can only justify it on an historical, sentimental or anthropological basis...unless you can tap grant money, or make it some sort of historical landmark eligible for Gov't funds, there is no way to pay for it in this era of reduced budgets and tax caps. I have seen literally hundreds of games in that building, and I love it...but it is most likely well past time to follow the superintendent's recommendation. Sad, but true.
  • $8000 ??!?!?!?!?
    How did they only make $8K.

    AHS probably play 12 or so home games a year at probably $5 a ticket. If only 1000 people show up per game that is $60K in revenue.

    Its a shame (or rather a sad joke) that gym isnt used by the IHSAA for any tournament games any more. I used to go and see 8000 people going crazy for sectional / regional games....of course, that's when people actually cared about HS Ball in the state.
  • Wigwam Deserves Better Fate
    Putting aside its day-to-day usefulness, the Wigwam is a historic landmark. If you can't sell it, are you then just going to mothball it and let it fall into disrepair? And, who will buy it?? Chow is not thinking...the idea sounds good, but no way is it practical.
  • Wigwam
    Just one more proof of the fact that knuckleheads are in charge. No wonder our schools get so much criticism, it's not the teachers, it is the pinheaded administrations with no guts, sense, or ability to use any common sense.
  • Confused
    Only $8,000 from events??? How can that be possible? If they sold basketball tickets for $1 apiece and only sold 800 seats per game they would make $8,000. Am I missing something?

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  1. What became of this project? Anyone know?

  2. Scott, could you post an enlarged photo of the exterior of the building? This will be a great addition to Walnut Street. This area will only continue to develop with additions like this. Also, please give us more updates on the "Cultural Trail light" expansion. Also a great move for the city, as long as there is maintenance money set aside.

  3. Great story IBJ! Citizens don't have a real sense of the financial magnitude of supporting Indy's sports and tourism sector. The CIB was a brilliant idea for creating a highly integrated public-private partnership to support this sector from the economic activity it generates. Unfortunately, most folks think the benefits of that economic activity accrue directly to the City budget, and it doesn't. So though the CIB is facing lean times (covering its costs while maintaining minimally acceptable reserves), the City is operating with deficit - less tax revenue than expenses each year - with a very fragile reserve balance. That's why it's so challenging for the City to fund basic needs or new intitatives (e.g. pre-k education; new jail), and some credit rating agencies have downgraded Indy from it's past stellar AAA status. More reporting on City finances would be welcomed.

  4. Sure, I'll admit that it bugs me to see that the IBJ.COM censors it's blog posts almost as much as the D of I does when someone points out the falsehoods and fabrications. _____But I think it bothers me almost as much that Captain/Defender/Disciple get his yanked too. You see, those of us with a sense of integrity, humanity, compassion, and a need for fact based opinion WANT to see all of his screeds posted. It makes our point so much better than we can do it ourselves.

  5. We're conflating two very different topics. Voter fraud is a myth and excessive gun violence is all too real. I just hope rational gunowners decide to stop being shouted down by the, well, let's call them "less rational" ones.

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