Anderson and Development/Redevelopment and Madison County and Regional News and Real Estate & Retail

UPDATE: Anderson schools extend Wigwam gym deadline

March 12, 2014

The Anderson School Board has put off demolition plans for the 9,000-seat Wigwam gymnasium in order to give more time to leaders of an effort trying to save it.

The board voted 6-0 Tuesday evening to approve an agreement with the city, the Wigwam Sports and Entertainment group and others under which they will cover about $23,000 in expenses for the gym for April, May and June, The Herald Bulletin reported.

School district officials had previously set a March 1 deadline for another entity to take over the iconic gym.

Michael Frischkorn, deputy director of the Anderson Economic Development Department, said the new agreement provides additional time for the Wigwam group to find investors for converting the gym into a sports and entertainment complex.

"This delays any move by the school board to demolish the Wigwam complex," he said.

The school district closed the gym in 2011 as a cost-cutting move.

If the gym's ownership isn't transferred to the city or another group by July 1, the school board could move ahead with demolition.

School Board member Scott Green said he was thrilled by the efforts to save the Wigwam, which for decades was home of the Anderson High School Indians basketball teams.

"It's a big challenge and we all know that, but I want to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of those who are involved to bringing some kind of successful opportunity to the Wigwam," Green said.

The gym was built in 1962 when Anderson was at its economic height with General Motors and other companies employing some 27,000 people in auto industry jobs that have nearly vanished from the city. The only larger high school gym in the country is the Fieldhouse in nearby New Castle.

The Anderson school district's decision to close the Wigwam followed its consolidation from three high schools to one since the late 1990s and the loss of more than 3,000 students to fewer than 7,000 since 2005.

School Board member Irma Hampton Stewart said the community needs to rally its support for the Wigwam with small donations of money, of even $5 and $10.

Without that support, she said, "we could lose one of the big things that was exciting about this community for years and years."

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