Study proposed on future of Anderson's Wigwam gym

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An architect has proposed leading a study looking at new uses, including a possible convention center, for Anderson's iconic Wigwam gymnasium that school leaders closed last year.

Members of the Anderson Redevelopment Commission said they support the proposal from local architect Jesse Wilkerson and that they hope the building is saved, The Herald Bulletin reported.

The Anderson School Board closed the 9,000-seat gym in a cost-cutting move. As home of the Anderson Indians, the gym was the country's second-largest high school basketball venue.

Wilkerson told the board Tuesday he believed the 50-year-old Wigwam could host concerts, events and classes.

The Wigwam is "something that can be a healing thing for the community and create blood flow in the community," he said.

The 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 2,000 students, to about 8,300, in the past decade. District officials said closing the gym would save the school district $550,000 a year in personnel and utility costs.

The district still owns the property.

"The school district has not cut a deal with the city, and the city has not sought a deal with the school district," said Greg Winkler, the city's interim economic development director.

Wilkerson said he would like to perform a study of the facility to assess its structure, space, uses and how improvements could be done in a financially feasible way. Part of the study would include how the facility could be retrofitted to bring down utility costs, such as with alternative energy and lighting options.

The city's Board of Public Works would need to approve the estimated $10,000 cost for Wilkerson's study, Winkler said.

Redevelopment Commission member Justin Pucket said he wanted the Wigwam to be used again but needed to learn about options, costs and plans.

"In my opinion, I think most taxpayers would like to see something done," Puckett said.

The gym was built in 1962 when Anderson was at its economic height with General Motors and other auto companies employing some 27,000 people in factory jobs that have nearly vanished from the city. The only larger high school gym in the U.S. is the 9,325-seat Fieldhouse in nearby New Castle.

Board of Public Works member Bob Schuler urged the public to support efforts to reopen a building that is so tied to the city's history.

"I and several people here feel that we can do something with the facility that will bring recognition to the city," Schuler said.


  • so many other uses
    What I don't understand is why didn't the school rent the place out to other athletics --- like volleyball, for instance. Volleyball is huge in the club scene.... there are tournaments at least 6 months out of 12 and held all over Indianapolis and the surrounding counties.... seems like the school wasnt looking too hard to stay open!
  • They were losing money...
    Just a reply to the other comment...

    I don't have the details in front of me but there have been several other articles in local media about them losing a significant amount of money to keep the building open. I don't recall the exact attendance average per game but it was way less than capacity. I believe it may have even been as low as only about 1,000 people on average showing up at a venue that holds 9,000. Aside from that not generating much revenue, it's also not much of a competitive advantage to have an enormous building nowhere near capacity. You're better off to have a smaller gym that you can come close to filling to make more noise and have a better homecourt advantage.

    Update- Just checked a NY Times article on the closing of the Wigwam that ran in March of this year. They were only selling 450 season tickets toward the end and drawing about 1,000 people per game. It's obvious based on those numbers why the cost of maintaining a 9,000 seat arena no longer made sense.
  • Funny Math
    I still don't understand the math with this thing. It hold 9,000+ and only generates $8,000 per event? High school bball has got to be huge there. You mean to tell me that even at $1 a ticket they're not generating more than $8,000 per game? And chances are they are charging more than $1 for a ticket. How are they not generating 20 or 30k + per game? I would think even that would be on the low end for some of the high school basketball games. Seems weird to me.

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