The Herald Bulletin

March 29, 2014

Gaithers supporting Wigwam project

Transfer of ownership could be completed this summer

By Ken de la Bastide
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON – Among the investors hoping to save the iconic Anderson Wigwam is internationally known gospel singer Bill Gaither.

Terry Thimlar, a partner in Wigwam Sports & Entertainment (WSE) LLC, said Thursday that Gaither is an investor in the project and a supporter of the effort to save the Wigwam complex from the wrecking ball.

Bill and Gloria Gaither operate the Gaither Management Group in Alexandria that includes a recording study and Gaither Family Resources, a restaurant and book store.

Bill Gaither could not be reached for comment, but did indicate support for the Wigwam project on Friday.

Greg Winkler, director of the Anderson Economic Development Department, said Friday the Gaither's involvement in the Wigwam project is significant.

"It doesn't get any bigger for Anderson and Madison County," he said.

WSE is looking to raise $1 million for operating and start-up costs to reopen the Wigwam as a sports and entertainment sometime this year.

The facility was closed in 2011 when the Wigwam complex was no longer needed for the Anderson Community Schools' education mission and was too expensive to maintain.

Thimlar said the group has financial commitments from investors of between $250,000 and $300,000.

“We’re getting investors on a regular basis,” he said. “We’re waiting on the number of confirmed investors to move forward.”

Thimlar said the estimates to prepare the Wigwam to reopen for public use ranges between $125,000 and $150,000.

An agreement was reached in March by the city of Anderson, WSE, ACS, 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 the Wigwam complex to the city by June 10.

The agreement allows the Anderson school board to approve a resolution transferring ownership and responsibility of the Wigwam complex as a gift without any compensation before the 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.

Winkler said the city's Economic Development Department, is preparing a draft of the request for proposals for the Wigwam complex facility.

"The city will not ask for or accept the Wigwam property without a feasible request for proposal," he said.

The request for proposals will look at the financial viability of the investment group that can maintain and rehabilitate the building, a sound business plan and for programming other than sporting events to take place in the facility.

Winkler said a continuing part of the discussions on the future use of the facility will include an educational purpose for the building that will benefit the Anderson community.

“We’re facing a June 11 deadline,” Thimlar said. “If we can keep adding people as investors we should be able to meet that deadline.

“We’re hoping we don’t have to ask for an extension of the deadline,” he said.

The transfer of the ownership involves ACS, the city of Anderson and WSE.

Thimlar said the hope is to have the transfer of ownership completed by late summer.

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