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Landmark Indiana gym faces talk of possible closure

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Another of Indiana's landmark high school gymnasiums could face being closed as school officials look to cut spending.

The Muncie school board has been holding public meetings on options such as closing schools in the face of declining enrollment.

Board president Beverly Kelley said she hadn't considered closing the Muncie Fieldhouse until it was suggested by residents at those meetings. Kelley told The Star Press of Muncie that closing the 6,000-seat fieldhouse should be "on the table."

The Anderson School Board closed the iconic 9,000-seat Wigwam gymnasium in a 2011 cost-cutting move.

Mark Burkhart, the chief financial officer for the Muncie Community Schools, estimated closing the fieldhouse would save perhaps $100,000 a year in utility and custodian expenses but said he didn't believe the nearby Muncie Central High School had enough gym space without it.

"Because the fieldhouse was there when Central opened in the early '70s, I am sure the architects took into consideration the availability of that fieldhouse," Burkhart said.

Closing the fieldhouse wouldn't meet the annual spending reduction needed to meet the district's average yearly $500,000 funding decline from a 100-student enrollment drop, he said.

The fieldhouse in downtown Muncie marks its 85th anniversary in December.

Kelley acknowledged that the building has a "great history," including as home court of the record eight-time state basketball champions Muncie Central Bearcats.

"We have to do what's best for our kids and our community," Kelley said. "I truly feel that we need to leave all options open because of that."

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