Rick Linton is all smiles this week.
As executive director of the Rend Lake Area Tourism Council, Linton is thrilled with Wednesday’s announcement that the State of Illinois is providing $17.5 million to renovate and remodel the Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center near Ina.
This is good news for Linton and for the region, which has missed the facility since it closed in December 2016 due to mold, peeling paint, maintenance issues and issues with the dealership handling the facility. . Linton said his tourism organization was primarily funded by a tax on motel stays in the county, as the tourism board lost around 60% of its revenue when the establishment closed.
“It goes into our marketing fund and allows us to reach Chicago and wider areas,” he said. “It’s also going to give us a really strong brand image for the lake, because the resort was really a key part of our marketing.”
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He explained that the economic benefits of reopening go far beyond revenue to promote the area, as it will help other businesses in the area.
“There are a lot of new businesses in the area and the tourism infrastructure around the lake will also increase with this,” he said. “Tourism is one of the most important things we have in Franklin County. I hope this will further stimulate tourism-related development.
The Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center is located in the 3,300-acre Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park near Whittington. The renovated facility is expected to offer more than 100 hotel-style rooms as well as a conference center, cabins, restaurant, boat, gift shop, swimming pool, tennis courts and more. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources oversees the property, but will likely contract with a third party to manage the complex.
According to a press release from the governor’s office, the station attracts 2.4 million visitors a year and employs up to 125 staff members. It had an estimated economic impact of nearly $245 million in 2010 with an occupancy rate of approximately 90% during the high season period between late spring and late fall.
Currently, accommodation options for visitors to Lake Rend who do not wish to stay in a campground are limited with few hotel rooms nearby. Linton said many people chose to stay in Marion or Mount Vernon.
Angela Schrum, director of tourism for the town of Mount Vernon, said her town would benefit from the new resort and increased visitor numbers to Rend Lake.
“It will help bring people to the lake area and it will benefit all the communities around it,” she said.
State Representative Dave Severin said the funds will “return the resort and conference center to a world-class facility. This investment will bring jobs, tourism and economic development to southern Illinois and revitalize the Rend Lake Resort property.
Renovations to the Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center are scheduled to begin in 2023.
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