Clock is ticking on Wigwam's future

March 26, 2014
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Anderson’s iconic Wigwam gymnasium could get a new lease on life—literally—if an investment group led by former Muncie Central High School basketball coach Terry Thimlar can score more than $1 million by early June.

Wigwam Sports and Entertainment LLC already lined up financial support from accredited investors in Indiana, Georgia and Texas, and Thimlar said momentum is building as the private placement approaches the halfway mark.

Wigwam anderson gym 15colThe Wigwam gymnasium needs about $115,000 in repairs to be usable. (IBJ Photo/Andrea Davis)

But organizers also are soliciting community support in the form of donations through crowdfunding site GoFundMe.com. The “Revitalize the Wigwam” campaign has raised about $200 in two months.

Thimlar, now an economics teacher at Cape Coral High School in Florida, nevertheless has high hopes for the 9,000-seat venue, the largest high school gym in the country when it was built in 1962. Anderson Community Schools closed the time-worn facility three years ago to save money.

This month, the school district agreed to extend its deadline to find a new owner for the gym and classroom space, sparing it from the wrecking ball—for now. School board members will revisit the issue at their June 10 meeting.

In the meantime, an outside group including Wigwam Sports and the city of Anderson is covering about $23,000 in utilities and other expenses.

City officials expect to solicit proposals from would-be users of the site early next month; responses will be due in mid-May. If Wigwam Sports or another entity presents a viable, financially sustainable plan for the property, the school district will transfer ownership.

“It will be a competitive process,” said Gary Winkler, Anderson’s economic development director.  

Still, Wigwam Sports has a head start. Formed in 2012, the group wants to see the venue host events ranging from roller derby to pro wrestling, conventions to concerts. And basketball, of course.

Thimlar has said he’d like the Wigwam to serve as home court for an NBA Development League team, something he knows something about after running a Florida D-League franchise for two years.

“That is something we would like to explore in more detail in the future,” he told IBJ.

The gym needs about $115,000 in repairs to be usable, he said.

The goal is to generate enough revenue from gym operations to fund upgrades in the rest of the shuttered high school, though officials are still figuring out how they want to use that space.

“Our major emphasis right now is to continue to bring more investors on board,” Thimlar said. “We’re working as diligently as we can.”

Among the early shareholders: gospel recording artist Bill Gaither and Turner Sports reporter Craig Sager.

The GoFundMe campaign has a $200,000 goal, but Thimlar doesn’t expect to come close. Rather, the crowdfunding initiative is an effort to engage the community in the project, he said.

“A lot of people have an interest in seeing the Wigwam saved,” he said. “This is a way for everyone to get involved.”

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  • Slow Death
    This is essentially a delay of the inevitable. Even if a group takes ownership of the building and uses it for some purpose there's no real market sustainability in Anderson to keep up with the maintenance of this now oversized facility. Like most of the properties owned by Anderson School Corporation it was built for the glory days of Anderson before they lost tens of thousands of jobs and their population tanked. Treat it like a band aid and rip it off Anderson, this slow march of decay won't help anyone.

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

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