A redevelopment project worth at least $42 million has been proposed for the Auburn Auction Park on Auburn's southwest side.
The auction park on County Road 11-A just off Interstate 69 has been the site of auctions of antique and classic cars and other vehicles for decades. The auctions drew thousands of enthusiasts each year during Labor Day weekend.
But last year, word surfaced that the property was going to be sold and a developer of a youth sports complex was interested.
On Friday, J.T. Fisher Properties LLC of Auburn closed on the land for $7.25 million, said Rob Sinn, president and co-owner of Auburn Sports Group, which is working with Fisher Properties to develop the project.
But the plans have grown from a proposal last year for sports facilities, he said. The developers are now also proposing a variety of uses for the 70 acres south of County Road 11-A.
They include at least two, and perhaps as many as four, hotels, plus restaurants and pubs, a gas station/convenience store, a gym, retail stores in a strip shopping center and other retail and commercial businesses, Sinn said.
An economic impact study done by the developer said the plans could mean $135 million annually for local businesses, he said.
“It's going to be crazy, but in a good way,” Sinn said. “It's probably one of the most exciting things that have happened for Auburn, Garrett, Butler, and Fort Wayne.”
He said the complex could “change the culture” of the Auburn area.
The sports complex on the approximately 160 acres now occupied by the auction is proposed to have 16 basketball/volleyball courts, four soccer/lacrosse fields, eight baseball/softball fields, a four-season dome, concessions and other amenities, a two-mile walking trail and room to park 2,000 cars.
One unusual feature: 25 fields for seven-on-seven football – a sport in which only seven skill players face off against other on a field shorter than 100 yards, Sinn said.
The sport – played in the off-season without pads and tackling – is gaining in popularity in the Midwest as training for traditional scholastic football, according to coachingkidz.com.
Sinn said the sports complex is still aimed largely at youth sports, but it's likely adult sports may use it as well.
He said he got started with the idea because his son played in travel sports leagues while growing up. Families will appreciate the other amenities nearby as they come to watch their children play, he said.
The project is expected to go before the Auburn Plan Commission in March. A timetable for construction is being developed this week with FCI Construction, Auburn, developers said.
The main building used by the auction will not be torn down but will receive some renovations, said Grant Sinn, vice president of Auburn Sports Group.
Kate Clendenning, a spokeswoman from the seller of the auction park, RM Sotheby, could not be reached Tuesday for information on what might become of the car auctions.