The Herald Bulletin

July 18, 2013

Editorial: Let's not allow the Wigwam to become a dangerous eyesore

The Herald Bulletin

---- — Some treasure it as a community gem to be polished and restored to its previous luster.

Others see it as a money pit symbolizing the community's refusal to let go of a past that is never coming back.

Most are in agreement, though, that something must be done about the Wigwam, Anderson's mothballed 9,000-seat basketball gymnasium.

Bringing the Wigwam back to life or razing it both come with a significant set of problems.

To save the Wigwam, someone needs to strike on a purpose for the facility. Crowds of 9,000 (or even 3,000) no longer attend Anderson High School basketball games, which the Wigwam hosted before the facility was shut down in 2011. Over the years, the Wigwam complex was also used for various Anderson Community Schools offices and academic programs. But ACS officials determined that the cost of keeping the building open and heating it was draining the school system of $350,000 a year.

So now it stands basically abandoned, with no suitors stepping forward to reopen the building and adapt it to a new use — for concerts, or antique markets, or museum displays, or trade shows or any other purpose you can think of.

Part of the problem is that the Wigwam will need a new roof, possibly within the next five years, at a projected cost of more than $1 million.

So why not raze it? Well, there are principally two reasons, one practical and one sentimental.

First, the practical. It would probably cost several hundred thousands dollars to destroy the facility and rehabilitate the property.

Now, the sentimental.

Many Andersonians love the old building for its character and history. Locals of a certain age remember attending sold-out basketball games when the crowd thundered with such enthusiasm that little children covered their ears and opposing players trembled at the knees. The pageantry of green and red and the magnitude of Indians games made the Wigwam the place to be, and drew sportswriters and Hoosier Hysteria enthusiasts from across the country.

To these folks, tearing down the Wigwam would be tantamount to destroying an important chapter of Anderson's rich history.

So, the Wigwam stands waiting for a purpose — or a demise. Meanwhile, vandals have become fond of the place while weeds grow up around it and time takes its steady toll. Some worry that the 1997 fire that destroyed the rest of the old Anderson High School facility, which stood with the Wigwam, could be repeated, posing grave danger to neighbors and firefighters.

What's to be done about the Wigwam? Nobody has the answer right now, but it's up to the City of Anderson and Anderson Community Schools to seek solutions. So far, they don't have anything to show for their efforts and, in fact, no signs that they have made a sincere effort to solve the Wigwam puzzle.

One thing's for sure, the longer the Wigwam stands empty, the more it will slip from the heights of its historic significance toward the sad fate of becoming nothing more than a colossal eyesore.

In summary What's to be done about the Wigwam? Nobody has the answer right now, but it's up to the City of Anderson and Anderson Community Schools to seek solutions.