Anderson city officials have little time left to make new deal for saving Wigwam gymnasium



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ANDERSON, Indiana — City officials don't have much time left to find a way to save Anderson's closed Wigwam gymnasium after a private group last week pulled out of deal to take it over.

The city Redevelopment Commission approved a resolution Thursday to take ownership of the 9,000-seat gym from the Anderson school district, but only if it has a binding agreement by Sept. 2 with a group to reopen the Wigwam, The Herald Bulletin reported (http://bit.ly/WmvjrJ ).

That's the deadline the school district has set for going ahead with plans for demolishing the gym it closed in 2011 as a cost-cutting move.

Redevelopment Commission member Kevin Sulc said he was frustrated that the deal with the private group Wigwam Sports & Entertainment fell apart after its leaders giving assurances that it had the needed financing.

"I asked a direct question, 'Are you financially viable?'" Sulc said. "The answer I got and the reality was quite different."

Wigwam Sports president Terry Thimlar told the newspaper last week that some investors backed out of the deal to take ownership of the complex.

"We requested the extension to put the financing in place to reach our threshold," he said. "My investors are still on board. The group wants to continue with the project."

The group had planned on operating the Anderson High School's basketball team as a venue for various events and was working toward raising $600,000 to obtain and make the complex ready for use. The Wigwam was built in 1962, and the only larger high school gym in the country is the Fieldhouse in nearby New Castle.

Greg Winkler, director of the Anderson Economic Development Department, said he has been having meetings with other groups interested in the property. One wants to obtain state tax credits and convert its classrooms into housing, and another group wants to convert the vocational education area into artist studios.

Those ideas have not yet gelled into a solid proposal, Winkler said.

Sulc said he was skeptical that another low-income housing complex will be successful because "the reality is that we've got a glut in the market." He said he was worried about the city having to eventually pay for demolition if it takes over the complex.


Information from: The Herald Bulletin, http://www.theheraldbulletin.com

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