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Ownership switch eyed for Anderson's Wigwam gym

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Officials are working on the details of transferring ownership of Anderson's iconic Wigwam gymnasium to the city as part of the effort to save it.

A private group, Wigwam Sports and Entertainment LLC, is expected to present its proposal for reusing the 9,000-seat gym to the city Redevelopment Commission on June 3, said Greg Winkler, director of the Anderson Economic Development Department. The group is trying to raise more than $1 million make the facility viable again.

Part of the plan is for the Redevelopment Commission to accept the building as a donation from the Anderson Community Schools, Winkler told The Herald Bulletin.

The school district has advertised for demolition bids on the longtime home of the Anderson High School Indians basketball teams, which it closed in 2011 as a cost-cutting move. The cost of tearing down the gym complex that also includes classrooms and offices has been estimated at $500,000.

"If this process fails, ACS will be ready to move forward with the demolition," Winkler said.

The Wigwam was built in 1962, and the only larger high school gym in the country is the Fieldhouse in nearby New Castle.

Terry Thimlar, a founder of Wigwam Sports and Entertainment, said the group received a big boost from the decision of the Teague family, including NBA players Jeff and Marquis Teague, to become investors in the project.

Shawn Teague, who played in the Wigwam during the 1970s for the Anderson High School basketball team, said last week his family recognizes the significance of the gymnasium to the city. His sons played at Indianapolis Pike High School — Jeff Teague now plays for the Atlanta Hawks and Marquis Teague is with the Brooklyn Nets.

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.

Thimlar said the Wigwam Sports proposal is ready and that he wants to hold an initial event in the gymnasium as soon as possible.

"We have done our due diligence," he said. "Financial viability along with a business and marketing plan has been a part of our process from the beginning."

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