Officials in Anderson are optimistic about a development group's plans for saving the community's iconic Wigwam gymnasium.
Indianapolis-based BWI (Black and White Investments) and Pinebrook Properties will take over the 9,000-seat gym under the plan approved Thursday by the city Redevelopment Commission and the Anderson School Board,, The Herald Bulletin reported. The Wigwam was closed as a budget-cutting move in 2011.
The group plans to convert parts of the complex into 55 multi-family housing units, offices or community spaces while maintaining the gym until at least 2030. School district officials had planned to demolish it if no redevelopment plan was agreed by Sept. 2.
The school board agreed to help finance renovation work by contributing $630,000 in exchange for rights to use the facility rent-free 12 days a year. School board President Ben Gale said that contribution was a good investment because it would have cost at least that much for the district to demolish the building, then maintain and insure the property.
"It's being transferred to the hands of some people who can do justice to the building, revive it and make it a positive site for our community," Gale said.
Renovations are expected to begin early next year.
The fate of the longtime home of Anderson High School's Indians basketball team had been in doubt since early July when other investors pulled out of a takeover deal.
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 New Castle.
Mayor Kevin Smith said he was impressed that the school board was so accommodating and that finding a credible end user with a good vision for the Wigwam complex had been "an iffy proposition for quite some time."