ANDERSON — Police are still investigating a series of break-ins at the historic Wigwam on Saturday afternoon.
Anderson Police Department spokesman Joel Sandefur said no suspects, witnesses or persons of interest have been identified yet, but the department is still looking into the matter.
About 3 p.m., somebody broke a window on the north end of the building on the first floor, entered the now-vacant former home of Anderson High School basketball and set off a number of fire extinguishers. The haze caused by the extinguishers set off the fire alarm in the structure, alerting the Fire Department.
Police explored the surrounding area to search for the culprit, but found no one. Four officers searched inside the building and also found nothing.
Alarms were tripped again at about 7:30 p.m. after police left the area. The cause was again the haze from activated extinguishers. Another canvass and search by police turned up nothing.
The second time, APD Sgt. Freddie Tevis said there were signs of mild vandalism inside the building, but no damage done in the gym. He said break-ins at the now unused arena aren’t common, but it has happened.
“Since the [1999 fire that destroyed the old Anderson High School], we’ve had maybe three or four break-ins like this,” Tevis said. “Actually, we were just called out to investigate one a few weeks ago that was kind of similar to this. Some damage was done to some cameras and other equipment in there.”
The Wigwam, a 9,000-seat gym and the second-largest high school arena in the United States, has sat vacant with no tenant since 2011 when the Anderson Community School Corp. was forced to close it down due to budget constraints. Before its closing, the gym no longer drew large crowds for games, and an estimated $350,000 a year in utility costs was no longer tenable for a building that wasn’t attached to the new high school on Madison Avenue.
When asked whether the Wigwam should be demolished, Sandefur declined to speculate.
"I know a few people have asked to use it for various reasons, but should it be torn down? I just don't know," Sandefur said.
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