A proposed sports resort in Portage is the latest large recreational sports complex slated for Indiana.
Dwight Adams/IndyStar

The developers of a major Portage sports complex made a big splash — and lofty promises — in early 2016.

They unveiled plans for a huge youth sports complex, complete with a 165,0000-square-foot sports dome, a 60,000-square-foot indoor waterpark with water slides, a 15-acre recreational lake for cable wakeboarding and climbing towers.

But the Catalyst Lifestyles Sport Resort planned in Portage, Ind., beset by construction delays and litigation over the months since the announcement, hit a major snag on Tuesday with the developer’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

A Chapter 11 filing isn’t a good sign, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a company is going out of business. It merely allows a company more time to reorganize its finances while protecting it from lawsuits.

The $75 million complex, which had won unanimous approval from the Portage City Council in February 2016, aimed to capture a major slice of the burgeoning youth sports industry — with huge domes planned for indoor football and baseball, basketball and soccer. 

The ambitious, 170-acre private development even included plans to expand far beyond sports, according to developer Tony Czapla, including a 150-room hotel, swanky campground, and an indoor, drive-in movie theater.

“If they don’t have a kid playing travel ball, then they have a brother who has a kid playing travel ball. It’s huge,” Czapla, the managing director for Catalyst Lifestyles, said last year.

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The concept is a proven success: Exhibit A is Westfield’s Grand Park, a 400-acre youth sports park that opened in 2014 and now draws athletes from across the state and nation. The Indianapolis Colts even agreed recently to pay Westfield $653,000 over 10 years to use Grand Park as its training site.

But the Catalyst Lifestyles Sport Resort had problems that delayed its construction early on, since the groundbreaking in April 2016.

A spokesman blamed complications, including problems with a utility company’s right of way for its towers that could have been impacted by the loosening of ground during the sports complex’s constructio. And there also were plans by the city of Portage to develop an overpass from U.S. 12 to Ind. 249 that could have affected part of the property.

Catalyst Lifestyles struck a deal with city officials in 2015 to purchase the property for $6 million, agreeing to pay $600,000 a year for 10 years. The company had made two of the payments, which were due every June 1, but it missed a payment this past June.

Complicating matters further, the Catalyst project has faced lawsuits between various partners over operations and the project’s development. The bankruptcy petition also mentions disagreements between partners and a lack of money to continue the project.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the Catalyst Lifestyles Sport Resort. While Czapla called the delays “frustrating” in a statement on the bankruptcy filing, according to The Northwest Indiana Times, he said company officials are still trying to find a way to complete the project. He also said tournament organizers and convention groups have remain committed to the project.

But the future of a once-promising addition to the recreational sports landscape is cloudier than ever and will now be decided in court.

Call IndyStar digital producer Dwight Adams at (317) 444-6532. Follow him on Twitter: @hdwightadams.