ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — City officials say a private group has backed out of a deal to take over Anderson’s closed Wigwam gymnasium, leaving its fate uncertain.
Greg Winkler, director of the Anderson Economic Development Department, said city officials were told last week about potential troubles and that an attorney for Wigwam Sports & Entertainment told them on Tuesday about the decision.
“We spent the weekend trying to iron out the differences,” Winkler told The Herald Bulletin (http://bit.ly/1myozQo ).
The group’s decision came on the same day that the Anderson School Board was expected to transfer ownership of the 9,000-seat gym to the city Redevelopment Commission, which was to then give control to Wigwam Sports.
The school board voted to give city officials until Sept. 2 to take over the 9,000-seat gym that was the longtime home of Anderson High School’s basketball team before it was closed in 2011 as a cost-cutting move. Demolition bids on the building are set to expire Sept. 3.
Mayor Kevin Smith said he remained hopeful the gymnasium can be saved and that the Wigwam Sports group might still be involved. Winkler also said city officials had some other possible partners and would know by sometime in August whether those might work out.
“The future rests in the hands of private investors that can make it a viable building that produces revenues,” he said. “There are some difficulties. I don’t count the project out.”
Leaders of Wigwam Sports didn’t immediately reply Wednesday to a message from The Associated Press seeking comment on the decision.
The group had planned on operating the gymnasium as a venue for various events and was working toward raising $600,000 to obtain and make the Wigwam complex ready for use.
The Wigwam was built in 1962, and the only larger high school gym in the country is the Fieldhouse in nearby New Castle.
School board member Scott Green said the Redevelopment Commission had to agree to pay the Wigwam’s maintenance and utility costs through September for the extension of time.
“We want to give the community an opportunity to have the Wigwam survive,” Green said. “Our demolition bids are good through early September.”
Information from: The Herald Bulletin, http://www.theheraldbulletin.com