An Indiana basketball landmark has appeared to have escaped the bulldozer. In Anderson, the city’s school board is transferring ownership of the historic Wigwam arena to the Anderson Redevelopment Commission, likely saving it from demolition.
The Wigwam gym is likely to eventually be donated to the independent investor Wigwam Sports and Entertainment, LLC. The group is expected to take control of the property later this month with the hope of turning into an event space for hosting sporting events and trade shows.
While the end of the years-long effort to save the gym from the wrecking ball is finally in sight, Anderson Economic Development Director Greg Winkler says that there’s still work to be done. The transfer needs to go through the Anderson City Council, and since the property comprises 57 different parcels of land, that takes time.
“Now, it’s a matter of all the title work and paperwork that goes along with that being assembled to convey 57 parcels in one closing,” he says.
The transfer of the property is contingent on Wigwam Sports and Entertainment’s ability to raise the $600,000 to go toward the gym’s revitalization and redevelopment. The Anderson School Board has voted to contribute $100,000 to the investment, which would put the group over its goal. For an additional $150,00 annual fee, Anderson Community School will be able to use the gym for events throughout the year.
School Board President Ben Gale says the donation actually saves money in the long run.
“We could either spend $100,00 now to help the ownership transfer,” he says, “Or we could spend $750,000 roughly, to demolish the building.”
The 9,000-seat gym is famous for being one of the largest high school basketball arenas in the country. To some, the vacant Wigwam has become emblematic of the region’s decline. A 2012 New York Times article that featured the arena bore the title “The End of an Era in Indiana.”