Wigwam excitement refreshed after recent update

·3 min read

Jun. 24—ANDERSON — Prior to his first home basketball game as a Ball State Cardinal, former Alexandria star Mickey Hosier was asked about how nervous the small-town kid might be playing in front of 5,000 fans at John Worthen Arena in Muncie.

"I was honest. I said I'd definitely be nervous," Hosier, now the athletic director for Alex, said. "But my last high school game I played in front of 10,000 people, so the crowd is probably not going to affect me."

The iconic Wigwam in Anderson has been shuttered since 2012, but talk of re-opening resumed with an update from developers of the site earlier this month. One of the details included allowing Anderson Community Schools the use of the arena for 13 events during the school year.

"It would be nice to go back in there," Anderson athletic director Steve Schindler said. "We may draw some of our old Indian fans who, when we closed it down and came over to the high school, said they wouldn't come over here because it wasn't the Wigwam. We might get some of those fans back."

Renovations are scheduled to begin in September and run through January, which would seem to preclude any large athletic events in the Wigwam until very late in the 2021-22 boys basketball season or sometime during the 2022-23 school year. But just the possibility of the nearly 9,000-seat arena — the largest high school gym in the country — being back in use is enough to create excitement now, particularly from those who have played and coached there previously.

"It's one of the Meccas of high school basketball," former Lapel coach Jimmie Howell said. "It and New Castle are right there as the two gyms that are the most fun to coach in and play in anywhere in the world for high school basketball."

Anderson coach Donnie Bowling played in two regionals at the Wigwam as a member of the Kokomo basketball team. The prospect of returning to the storied gymnasium as the coach of the home team is something to look forward to, but the players are just as excited at the opportunity to play in the same building their fathers have spoken of with such reverence.

"When you're younger, that's why you become a coach kind of, because you see the big crowds, and there's a lot of history behind it with Hoosier Hysteria at its best," Bowling said. "(The current players) were really excited just to drive by it and see it. They thought Richmond's gym was really big. I told them that the Wigwam is even bigger."

Most coaches concede the days of filling the Wigwam to capacity may have long since passed. But the idea of entering its hallowed gymnasium to compete once again is enough to stir thoughts of the glory days of the 1970s, '80s and '90s.

"One of my earliest memories, I was about 5 or 6 years old, my dad didn't make all that much money, but he found a way to get tickets to go see Steve Alford and Troy Lewis back when New Castle came to the Wigwam," Hosier said. "I can remember him — it was so crowded — saying 'Stay close.' People were scalping tickets. It was just unbelievable.

"For me, it holds a special place, some of my greatest memories. I played in the NCAA tournament, but my greatest memories as a basketball player were winning sectional in the Wigwam."

The Herald Bulletin will continue to monitor the progress of the Wigwam project. THB reporter Andy Knight contributed to this story.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.

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