The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local Politics

July 10, 2014

City working with new group to save Wigwam

WSE still interested in ownership

ANDERSON, Ind. — A request for more time from the Wigwam Sports & Entertainment group of investors was denied because local officials lacked confidence the proposed project could be completed.

Greg Winkler, director of the Anderson Economic Development Department, said WSE requested the extension on Tuesday, the day the Anderson Redevelopment Commission was supposed to take ownership of the Wigwam complex from Anderson Community School Corp.

Terry Thimlar of WSE disputed that assertion saying they notified the Redevelopment Commission on July 3 that they would not accept the property.

The school board has since approved an extension requested by the Redevelopment Commission to take ownership of the building by Sept. 2. The board directed Kevin Brown, chief financial officer, to sign demolition contracts if an agreement is not in place by that date.

Thimlar said at the last minute some investors backed out of the deal to take ownership of the Wigwam complex.

“We requested the extension to put the financing in place to reach our threshold,” he said. “My investors are still on board. The group wants to continue with the project.”

Winkler said the Redevelopment Commission could not grant an extension but it was up to the ACS board of trustees.

“It was more like an ultimatum,” Winkler said. “Either grant the extension or we’re not moving forward.”

“As we approached the closing, the Redevelopment Commission members and the ACS board had a lack of confidence that WSE could do the entire project,” Winkler said.

Winkler said local officials were at the point where it was determined WSE could not complete the project to save the Wigwam complex as outlined in a public meeting.

He said WSE could be involved in the future of the Wigwam by operating the gymnasium portion of the building, which was closed by the school board in 2011 due to budget constraints.

Built in 1962, the nearly 9,000-seat gym was filled to capacity for Anderson High School basketball games and tournaments for many years.

“We’re looking at other opportunities,” Winkler said. “Our goal is to save the building and find a reuse for it.”

If WSE steps forward with the necessary funding, that would be “wonderful,” Winkler said. He said it could be another group of investors who have a history of saving historic structures.

Winkler stressed the city is looking for a public/private partnership that would utilize the entire Wigwam complex, most importantly the existing classroom space in the adjacent building. He hopes the city will have a partner by the end of August.

Thimlar said WSE was denied the extension from the Redevelopment Commission and learned later in The Herald Bulletin the school board approved an extension to Sept. 2.

“If they (Redevelopment Commission) are talking with another group, we don’t know about it,” Thimlar said. “We’re out of the loop. We will work with any entity that wants to lease space.”

WSE is working daily to find investors for the project, he said.

“We are still interested in obtaining the building,” Thimlar said.

WSE has been working to obtain ownership of the Wigwam complex for several years and was attempting to raise $600,000.

The ACS board last month approved a resolution to provide $100,000 to WSE. The school system is looking at demolition costs of $700,000 for the Wigwam if the transfer of ownership fails.

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

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