Lots of folks believed the effort to save the Wigwam, Anderson High School’s iconic 9,000-seat gym, from the wrecking ball would be futile.
After all, the facility was no longer used by the schools and was no longer needed to accommodate huge crowds for high school basketball games.
Such doubters, as it turns out, greatly underestimated the determination, creativity and collaborative spirit of local leaders who were determined to save the Wigwam.
After the events of last week, the likelihood of the gym’s survival appears better than at any point since Anderson Community Schools decided in 2010 to mothball the facility and move AHS basketball games to the high school facility off Madison Avenue.
On Tuesday, the school board pledged $100,000 up front to Wigwam Sports & Entertainment, provided that the entity take ownership of the gym by July 8. The board also committed $150,000 over the course of 20 years to use the Wigwam for as many as five events a year.
WSE, and its local supporters, have done a marvelous job of raising funds to save the Wigwam, tapping sources as disparate as gospel music’s Bill Gaither and the NBA’s Jeff and Marquis Teague. (Each have strong local ties.)
The financial contribution of Anderson Community Schools helped put WSE over the top of its stated goal of $600,000 in contributions.
Some criticized the school system for earmarking money for the old gym. But, no matter what you think of the Wigwam, ACS’s contribution makes sense: It would have cost the school district an estimated $700,000 to raze the structure. Devoting $250,000 to saving the Wigwam also saved the district $450,000.
The day after the ACS board voted, the Anderson Redevelopment Commission took another important step in the salvation of the Wigwam, resolving to accept ownership of the facility from the school district and then to turn it over to WSE.