Vigo School Board action voids sale of Chauncey Rose property

Apr. 22—The Vigo County School Board on Monday rejected a purchase agreement that would have enabled Sweatbox Gym to purchase the former Chauncey Rose property at 13th and Locust streets from the Terre Haute Boys & Girls Club.

The sale required the school board's approval.

According to Superintendent Chris Himsel, when the district transferred the Chauncey Rose property to the Boys & Girls Club in 2012, the agreement stated that any sale of the property would share proceeds between VCSC and the Boys & Girls Club.

The Boys & Girls Club asked Monday that the provision be waived as a contingency allowing the sale to proceed.

The school board voted to reject the waiver request, voiding the purchase agreement between Sweatbox Gym and THBGC.

Himsel said during the meeting that the Boys & Girls Club wanted to vacate the Chauncey Rose property — a facility housing the historic Howard Sharpe gym — because it needed more than $1 million in repairs "to keep it viable and keep the doors open."

Maintaining the historical aspect of the building would cost even more, Himsel said.

Board president Amy Lore said the property "has such tremendous historical significance" because it was the original site for Rose-Hulman and it has the former Gerstmeyer High School gym.

Himsel said the district, with permission from the board, wants to work with the Boys & Girls Club to see if there are other development opportunities to "make sure the building is viable for a long period of time, not short a period" and also to preserve the historical aspect.

Himsel said that given there is "the potential for other things," he would like to see those pursued to see if they can come to fruition.

James Porter, founder/CEO of Sweatbox Gym, was not happy with the outcome. "It's so unfair," he said after he left the meeting.

Sweatbox Gym is a nonprofit organization.

Wende Personette, president of the Sweatbox Gym board, said the building would not require $1 million of work. She said they have partners to help with the roof and HVAC.

"They are acting like we don't have the backing to fix up the building. And that was our whole goal from the get go," she said.

Porter said, "It's not their building. Why do they even care about it." He says developers are interested in the property who can invest more money in the property.

During a public comment period, both Porter and Personette addressed the board.

Personette said the Sweatbox gym helps youth, especially at risk youth, through boxing.

"We have a lot of plans for the Chauncey Rose building," she said. They made a presentation to the Boys & Girls Club and there was a purchase agreement; Sweatbox Gym provided $5,000 in earnest money.

"We thought all along this was a done deal," she said. "Our plans with the building were to help the community in that area." Programming in addition to boxing was going to be offered.

Porter made an emotional appeal to the board prior to their discussion and decision.

A lot of kids who go to the Sweatbox don't fit in other places, he said. They go there because they feel comfortable there.

"The gym means so much to me," Porter said.

He added "I do my best every day to try to help kids in Terre Haute."

Porter described his own struggles as a special needs student. Now, he wants to use the gym to inspire others to success.

Rejecting the sale is hurting his efforts to help those children, he said.

He asked the board to take more time to evaluate his plans.

Earlier in the day, Dave Friedrich, THBGC board president, said the original property transfer agreement between the school district and club included a reversionary clause in the deed, and the THBGC would have to pay up to $144,000 if the property was ever sold.

"We're not selling the property for that amount," Friedrich said. The purchase agreement with Sweatbox Gym is for less than half that amount, he said.

The purchase agreement with Sweatbox Gym states that "the sale is contingent upon the school corporation approving the sale and waiving all or part of that contingency," Friedrich said.

He added, "We've asked them [the school board] to consider giving us a break because we're in the process of putting over $1 million into the Meadows."

The club now has space for its operations in the VCSC Learning Lab at 55 S. Brown St. The club, which is located on the west side of the building, has plans for a renovation project there.

Friedrich has previously stated the club was in the processing of trying to sell the Chauncey Rose property.

The site "has become financially very difficult for us," given the age of the building, he said last summer.

The club uses the building there that houses the Howard Sharpe gymnasium. The main Chauncey Rose Middle School building was demolished in 2013.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on X at @TribStarSue.