Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

$40 million indoor sports complex eyed for Town of Chesterton

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It would be the most ambitious single commercial project in the Town of Chesterton’s history: a $40 million indoor sports complex capable of hosting not only local but regional and even national athletic tournaments.

Its location: on approximately 28 acres of the so-called Rossman property, 55 acres sited immediately south of the Indiana Toll Road and east of Ind. 49 and annexed by the Town of Chesterton in 2007.

Tony Czapla, a principal of the Portage-based Persistence LLC, told the Chesterton Tribune today that the complex would feature three “air-supported structures”—that is, pressurized domes—having an aggregate of well over 100,000 square feet.

Those domes would be capable of providing venues for a wide variety of athletic competitions: baseball and softball, basketball, volleyball, track and field, soccer, and even extreme or “action” sports. There would be training facilities too and a golf driving range.

“We are also in discussion with hoteliers and are considering an indoor water park,” Czapla said.

There is a hitch. Czapla is looking to finance the project through “recovery-zone bonds” made available through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) of 2009, but those bonds—which give developers like Czapla the ability to secure low-interest loans—must be sold by Dec. 31.

In order to be eligible for ARRA bonds, a county must declare itself a “recovery zone,” which the Porter County Commissioners did by resolution in April. Then, in September, the Commissioners formally approved an $8.5 million recovery-bond commitment to Persistence LLC, which obtained a further $6.8 million commitment this week from the LaPorte County Commissioners.

Czapla is now seeking further commitments from other counties in the region.

If he secures those commitments, the bonds will be bundled and assigned to the Chesterton Economic Development Commission to administer.

No property taxpayer in Chesterton, in Porter County, or in any other county will be on the hook for those bonds, Czapla noted. “All the bonds allow you to do is borrow money at low rates,” he said. “Bond buyers don’t have to pay taxes on them. And if we go belly up, no taxpayer becomes responsible for them.”

The economic benefit to the Chesterton community—and to the region—could be substantial, Czapla said. On build-out, he estimated, the complex would provide something on the order of 200 full-time jobs.

But the numbers on the trickle-down effect from hosting tournaments are also impressive. Earlier this year Sports Events magazine reported that, in 2009, “non-fixed events” generated $6.3 billion nationwide; that the number of athletes who attended each event averaged 563; that each athlete averaged $719 in spending at each event; and that a typical venue hosted 62 events every year, or one per weekend and another 10 in the summer.

Crunch those numbers for a total annual impact in a venue community of $25.1 million.

“We think we can attract local, regional, and even some national tournaments,” Czapla said. “We think we can also attract music and other entertainment events.”

Czapla conceded that he has not yet made contact with the operator of The Courts, an in-door sports facility located just down the road in Liberty Township. “But we look forward to working with The Courts,” Czapla said. “A combination of the facilities could attract larger and even more prestigious tournaments to Chesterton and the region.”

Town Council President Jeff Trout, R-2nd, did say that the planned unit development ordinance governing the Rossman property would, in all likelihood, have to be amended. But he anticipates any such amendments to be “minor,” concerning the configuration of the property more than the permitted uses. At the moment the PUD limits uses to B-3, with a health and fitness center being one of three additional permitted uses.

Trout added that responsibility for bringing sanitary sewers south—and under the Indiana Toll Road—belongs to the owner of the property, Bob Rossman, a principal of I-80 Partners LLC.

Czapla said that Persistence LLC has not yet purchased the 28 acres from I-80 Partners LLC but that there is “a letter of intent between the parties.”

Posted 10/8/2010




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