Anderson vote gives Wigwam second chance at new life

The future of one of Indiana basketball's most hallowed sanctuaries faced a vote Tuesday night.

The Anderson school board approved a motion for a private corporation to take over the Wigwam Tuesday night.

"I was the last official voice of the Wigwam. I was the, 'Welcome, sports fans, to the Wigwam!'," said Doug Zook.

The Wigwam hasn't welcomed any sports fans in three years. Zook says he attended every game since his parents brought him to the gym as a toddler. Looking through the windows now, he says, is painful.

"My parents passed away. I see them sitting in there, cheering on the Indians," Zook said.

Anderson cheered on its Indians for 50 years, filling 9,000 seats in America's second-largest high school gymnasium. It was the heart of the city.

"It was Anderson pride," Zook said.

"But since those pride-high days, Anderson has closed two high schools and lost tens of thousands of jobs. There aren't the crowds or the millions of dollars the school system needs to keep it open.

"On sectional nights, you would see people down to the street, lined up to get in," Zook said, admitting that excitement likely wouldn't come back.

But now, the private corporation is raising money to buy and renovate the landmark, to host sports, entertainment, conventions and other events, giving the Wigwam - and maybe Anderson - new life.

"You've seen a lot of people who feel like there is no hope for Anderson. But the one thing people could always rely on is the Wigwam," Zook said. "I believe if the Wigwam opens up again, it helps restore hope to Anderson citizens."

Despite passing Tuesday's vote, the motion still must be approved by the Anderson Redevelopment Commission, who will decide if they want to renovate the gymnasium, or if it will be torn down.

"They will meet on June 25 and if everything is in line on their end, they will pass a similar resolution, which will then allow us to transfer the property to them," said board president Ben Gale.