AUBURN, Ind. (WANE) – They were supposed to be playing ball by now.

That was the plan, at least.

In place of the old Auburn Auction Park just off of Interstate 69 in DeKalb County, there was supposed to be a complex dubbed the Auburn Sports Park dedicated to youth sports.

Developers of the park, The Auburn Sports Group, have promised a complex consisting of multiple volleyball and basketball courts, up to eight baseball and softball fields, three multipurpose fields, one indoor 7 on 7 football field, indoor batting cages and an outside concert venue.

And along with it, loads of economic development.

“There is nothing like it around,” one of those behind the plan, Joe Fisher, told a reporter for The Star newspaper more than a year and a half ago.

Today, the auction park still stands, a temporary home for hundreds of General Motors trucks that are waiting to be shipped to buyers.

Rendering of Auburn Sports Group youth sports complex. (Auburn Sports Group)

The Auburn Sports Group has a website touting the glowing aspects of the park, all written in the present tense as if it’s a functioning facility – developers pegged July as an open date – but a large sign with the park’s name and the words “coming soon” that once stood outside the property is now gone.

Many of the main players connected to the project have not returned phone calls, emails or social media messages to WANE 15.

And two of the developers, who bought the auction park for $6.2 million, are now facing a lawsuit accusing them of owing more than $3 million on a loan they have yet to pay back and were ordered by a judge this past July to pay $1.5 million in another lawsuit involving unpaid money.

One of the companies suing the developers is also looking to foreclose on the sports park land, according to court documents.

What’s happening with the Auburn Sports Park is not clear, but whatever future it might have, court documents do not paint a bright one.

Better Days

The future seemed rosier back in January 2022.

Joe Fisher and Terri Fisher, owners of J.T. Fisher Properties, had just closed on buying the auction park. They had partnered with Rodney Sinn, who was previously involved in a similar sports park in Hamilton County along with his son, Grant Sinn, and a man named Cole Walker.

Together, they formed the Auburn Sports Group.

Standing outside their farmhouse on Amstutz Road, the Fishers told a reporter for The Star newspaper about their excitement for the complex they planned to build at 5536 County Road 11A.

“They know how to make this happen and have been instrumental in getting the deal done,” said Joe Fisher of his business partners.

Flash-forward a month, and cracks in the plan began to appear.

Developers of the Grand Park Fieldhouse, located north of Indianapolis, filed a lawsuit against Rodney Sinn, who used to be president of operations of that park’s 88,000 square foot basketball and volleyball facility.

In that lawsuit, Sinn was accused of leaking confidential information and over-hyping his role in making that complex a success. He was also accused in the suit of using his knowledge of his employer’s financial information and business plan to entice third parties to invest in the planned Auburn park.

“It’s not going to hold up progress of our park,” Sinn told WANE 15 at the time when asked about the lawsuit.

Rendering of Auburn Sports Group youth sports complex. (Auburn Sports Group)

There have been talks to settle that lawsuit, according to court documents, and Sinn has agreed to not use Grand Park Fieldhouse in any promotional materials for the Auburn Sports Park.

More hurdles began to crop up, with the DeKalb Economic Development Commission voting against Tax Increment Financing, or TIF money, earmarked for the development of the proposed park this past December.

Commission Members said at the time that financing documentation provided by the Auburn Sports Group was not proof of financing.

“We’ve got what they need, there was just some clarifications they wanted,” said Tim Ehlerding, vice president of customer solutions for FCI Construction who spoke at that meeting on behalf of the developers. “We don’t anticipate a problem, and once we close on everything, we will start excavation and demolition as soon as possible.”

In April, the Auburn Sports Group posted a photo of a hard hat and a golden shovel at the site of the proposed park with the following caption:

“Caution: Be aware of construction happening at the Auburn Sports Park!!!!”

In May, a group called ForeSight Consulting, LLC, which is connected to the sports park, formally asked the City of Auburn Department of Building, Planning & Development for a one-year extension in the development plan approval for the project.

“The request is being made to allow more time to review operational logistics facility and any future development of the remainder of the site,” wrote one of the consulting firm’s official in a letter to the building and planning department.

That extension was granted.

As of Tuesday, there are no signs of any construction happening.

Legal Trouble

On June 7, a Florida-based company called Plutus Mezzanine Fund I, LLC, filed a lawsuit in DeKalb Superior Court against J.T. Properties LLC, Joe and Terri Fisher as well as the Auburn Sports Group and First Secure Bank and Trust.

According to the lawsuit, the Fishers took out a secured promissory note in January 2022 to the tune of $2.1 million, promising to pay Plutus back with an annual interest of 25 percent.

They also put up the Auburn Sports Park as collateral, along with “all future proceeds from the contemplated Auburn Sports Park to be constructed including, but not limited to, sponsorships and naming rights until the Loan is fully satisfied,” the lawsuit said.

That note matured on July 21, 2022, at which point the Fishers needed to pay back all outstanding principal and interest owed to Plutus, according to the lawsuit. When that date came, according to the lawsuit, the Fishers asked for an extension, with interest still running.

According to the lawsuit, the Fishers still owed roughly $3.2 million as of May, with interest still running and late fees added on to their total.

Plutus is seeking to foreclose on the land, according to the lawsuit, which is still winding its way through the legal system.

Rendering of Auburn Sports Group youth sports complex. (Auburn Sports Group)

This past July, the Fishers were ordered by a DeKalb Superior Court judge to pay a company identified as River’s Edge Construction and Remodeling more than $1.5 million after they failed to pay back a second forbearance agreement connected to a property in Michigan.

Rodney Sinn, one of their partners with the Auburn Sports Group, was also named in that lawsuit.

According to court records, attempts to serve Sinn subpoenas – in person and via mail – ordering him to appear for that lawsuit failed.

On July 19, the Fishers appeared in court to hear a judge rule on what they needed to pay and that the property in Michigan was now in foreclosure. The judge noted in his ruling Sinn was absent and that a representative from the Fisher’s bank appeared via video conference.

Attempts by WANE 15 to reach Sinn were unsuccessful, as well as attempts to reach the Fishers.

A reporter for WANE 15 went to Auburn Tuesday.

The only ones at the Auction Park were members of security, who were guarding the vehicles put there by General Motors. Likewise, there was little activity at the Fishers’ home, which doubled as headquarters for the now permanently closed J.T. Fisher Properties.

The garage door was open, cars were parked in the driveway, and a dog could be heard barking.

But there were no joyous greetings like the one they gave The Star reporter back in January 2022. Instead, more barking came from inside the home when the doorbell rang. A man’s voice could be heard saying the dog’s name and trying to quiet the animal down.

No one came to the door.