The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Local Education

February 7, 2009

Wigwam: Are its days numbered?

ACS budget crisis leads to talk of closing historic gym

ANDERSON — “Historic” and “tradition” are two words long associated with the Wigwam, but a newer description from some people might be “drain,” as in a drain on the checkbook of Anderson Community Schools.

As the school district looks for ways to cut millions from its budget, one idea tossed out at recent public meetings is to close down the Wigwam Complex, which, along with a 9,000-seat basketball gymnasium, houses more than a dozen school administrative offices.

Boarding up the Wigwam would also essentially end a nearly 50-year legacy of packed home games and historic moments. The notion is part of one preliminary consolidation plan under review.

Assembled in 1962, the Wigwam’s brown bricks form the second largest high school basketball venue in the world, ranked behind the Fieldhouse in New Castle. (Both the Fieldhouse and Wigwam made it onto a 2004 list by USA Today of the nation’s best spots for high school hoops.)

John F. Kennedy spoke at the Wigwam, and more than 6,000 people met there last spring to see then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Thom Earl, a 1964 Anderson High School graduate, called closing the Wigwam “a horrible idea.”

“You’ve got the finest gym in the world,” he said. “You probably should use it.”

The Wigwam “is a historic and famous high school basketball venue,” said Ron Hecklinski, who has coached the Anderson High School Indians boys basketball team for 16 years.

“The Wigwam is Anderson,” he said. “It should be revered.”

The possibility of it closing hasn’t disrupted Hecklinski’s staff or team, he said, because they strongly doubt it will actually happen.

“If we no longer play basketball at the Wigwam, I will no longer coach the Anderson Indians,” Hecklinski vowed.

The money

Keeping the Wigwam dark and turning down the heat would have a noticeable impact on the Anderson Community Schools’ bottom line.

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