The Herald Bulletin

March 11, 2014

Wigwam deadline extended to June 30

City may take ownership of famed gymnasium

By Ken de la Bastide and Stuart Hirsch The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON – The Anderson Community Schools Board of Trustees and city officials on Tuesday reached an agreement that will delay consideration of razing the Wigwam complex until July.

The board’s 6-0 vote (member Danny McGhee was absent) was a key endorsement that makes it possible for a business group to continue seeking investors and work on plans to once more turn the historic high school sports arena into a community destination.

“I’d like to say that I’m thrilled for the efforts of those who are continuing to work in this regard,” said board member Scott Green. “It’s a big challenge and we all know that, but I want to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of those who are involved to bringing some kind of successful opportunity to the Wigwam.”

Earlier in the day, the Anderson Board of Public Works voted to approve the agreement with the Anderson Community School Corp., Wigwam Sports & Entertainment (WSE), the Madison County Visitors Bureau and Tom Snyder to cover the expenses of the Wigwam through the end of June.

Included in the agreement is the possible transfer of ownership of the Wigwam complex to the city by June 10.

The agreement allows the school board to approve a resolution transferring ownership and responsibility of the Wigwam complex to the city as a gift without any compensation before the school board’s June 10 meeting.

If the transfer of ownership is not completed by July 1, the ACS board may proceed with the demolition of the Wigwam complex.

The current agreement runs through June 30.

The city of Anderson will provide $10,547 in food and beverage tax revenues with Wigwam Sports & Entertainment, the Visitors Bureau and Snyder each providing $4,170. Snyder is chairman of the blue ribbon committee that was appointed by the mayor to explore ways to revitalize the Wigwam.

ACS will pay the operating expenses through the end of March.

A total of $23,057 is to be deposited into a separate ACS account by March 30 to fund the expenses for April, May and June.

A monthly forecast of the Wigwam complex costs provided by ACS projects expenditures ranging from $6,619 in March to $7,899 in May and June. Not included in the monthly cost is $9,667 per month for building preservation.

ACS has estimated the cost of reopening the Wigwam as a multi-use recreational facility is $116,000.

Michael Frischkorn, deputy director of the Anderson Economic Development Department, said the agreement provides additional time for Wigwam Sports & Entertainment to find investors interested into converting the iconic gym into a sports and entertainment complex.

“This delays any move by the school board to demolish the Wigwam complex,” he said.

Although the board of trustees’ decision was unanimous, Irma Hampton Stewart said that now is the time for the community to really show its support for the Wigwam with small donations of money, of even $5 and $10.

Without that support, she said, “we could lose one of the big things that was exciting about this community for years and years.”

The Wigwam complex was closed in March 2011 because it was no longer needed for ACS’s education mission and was too expensive to maintain, the board determined.

The financial costs of maintaining the Wigwam complex in a “mothball” status was draining the school system’s resources to support the educational programs and were being diverted to pay for the facility’s expenses.

Wigwam Sports & Entertainment has set up a site to collect donations ranging from $100 to $450 at www.gofundme.com4j4864. Contributors will receive tickets, reserved parking for the highest donation level once the Wigwam complex begins staging events.

The goal is to raise $200,000. To date, $100 has been donated to the website, which was established in January.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.