The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Business

July 15, 2013

Should the Wigwam stay or should it go?

City, school officials wrestling on what to do with iconic gym

(Continued)

ANDERSON, Ind. —

It's a matter of finding those who've expressed "interest but also have capital," Winkler added.

Chow said the historic gym is relatively inexpensive to keep standing with insurance, alarm and electricity costs. Open, though, it was costing the district $350,000 a year in utility costs alone.

But the roof, the original from when the gym opened in 1961, is weak, he said, adding a heavy snow could cave it in.

Anderson Fire Chief Phil Rogers said it's a safety hazard.

A fire in the rafters could collapse the roof and a water load could even bring down the score board, presenting another danger, he said.

"If it was fully involved, it'd be another tragedy like Anderson High School," he added.

The old AHS closed in 1997 and the Mansur Development Corp. acquired rights to re-use it for senior housing.

Then it caught fire in 1999.

Firefighters from multiple agencies fought to put out the blaze. They couldn't save the school, but they did rescue the Wigwam.

Describing the second largest gym in the nation as "an icon of Anderson," Rogers said he'd personally like to see it used in some capacity.

But unless fixed, it remains a hazard, he added.

Realistically, Chow said, the roof has maybe another five years left — depending on weather conditions.

If it caves in, the school board and community will be "forced to make a decision." Repair or demolish.

And to fix it would be an "expensive structure repair" of, at a minimum, $1 million, Chow said.

To tear it down, though, would be costly, too. Selling bits of it, like bricks to fans for nostalgia or copper, would offset some costs.

Architect Jesse J. Wilkerson, principal of Jesse J. Wilkerson and Associates LLC, proposed a $10,000 feasibility study last year to the city to create multiple options for potential development.

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