Economics Professor Studies Economic Viability of Historic Indiana Gym

Harter photo

“Is the Wigwam Worth It?”

That’s the question posed by Eastern Kentucky University economics professor and Anderson (Ind.) High School graduate Dr. John Harter in a study published in the April issue of Contemporary Economic Policy.

Harter used survey data to measure the indirect economic benefits from the use of Anderson High School’s wigwam gym complex for high school basketball, finding a “relatively small” benefit.

“It appears that the school district made the correct decision – in a financial sense – to stop using the Wigwam,” Harter said. “The taxpayers in the school district just didn’t get enough of a benefit from the continued use of the gym.”

Harter claims that his paper adds more evidence to findings by economists that government expenditures for sports are usually not good economic decisions. However, “most of the research has looked at large stadiums and professional teams, so this paper was an attempt to see if public spending would be justified on a smaller scale for scholastic sports. It appears that the people of Anderson simply didn’t enjoy having the Wigwam enough to be willing to pay for it.”

Harter did point out, however, that his study ignored former Anderson residents and high school basketball fans across Indiana.

“A lot of people who live outside the school district benefit from the Wigwam,” he said, “but the Anderson Community School Corporation can’t tax them. I was looking only at whether the school district was justified in paying for the upkeep on the Wigwam. That’s not to say a creative way to finance the Wigwam couldn’t be found that includes the outside stakeholders.”

After graduating from Anderson High School, Harter earned an undergraduate degree from Yale University and his doctoral degree in economics from Purdue University. He has been teaching at EKU for 16 years.

Contemporary Economic Policy is a highly-ranked journal published by the Western Economic Association International. Harter had presented a previous version of the paper at the Association’s annual conference in 2013.

Published on March 25, 2015

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