Why did the state shut down Rend Lake Resort? And will it reopen? | Outdoors, Wildlife and Hunting


WHITTINGTON – It has been a long and winding road so far.

At one time, Rend Lake Resort was a hive of activity, drawing tourists from Chicago and Metro East St. Louis to southern Illinois. Last Friday, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced it had terminated the concessionaire’s lease and shut down the facility.

In a press release on Friday, the IDNR said the resort was facing past due rent payments of $ 205,000 while also owing $ 14,000 in property taxes as well as down payments for utilities and taxes. of the hotelier.

John Reilly, the concessionaire, had operated the complex since it opened in 1990. Originally, Reilly and Terry Cross operated the complex. Reilly became the sole owner in 1993.

Reilly has been contacted for this story and said he would have a statement at a later date.

In the statement, the IDNR noted that the Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center had issues such as mold, paint peeling, and other health-related issues. These issues ultimately resulted in the shutdown, the statement said.

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But this is a more complicated question than it seems.

The resort originally opened with a few “boatels” – rooms located on the shores of Lake Rend. Cabins were added at a later date.

Then, in the mid-1990s, Reilly paid for the construction of the hotel and conference center. Reilly said ownership of the building is one of the issues. In the meantime, lawmakers across the region have struggled to secure $ 5 million in funding for capital improvements approved in 2013. That money has never been allocated.

“At the moment, the state is operating without an investment budget, so there is no money available for investment projects,” IDNR spokesman Ed Cross said.

“We have to make sure we have to get this facility up and running, it just can’t stay there,” said Ralph Hamilton, who was superintendent of Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park, inside which the complex is located, when the complex has opened. “In my opinion, what happened, the funds were not allocated because we did not have a budget.

“The hope is that the agency can open it at some point,” Cross said. “With the discovery of mold last week, we have to see how much damage there is. We have someone who will hopefully start looking around to see what we’re dealing with.

“Realistically, the hope is that we would like to get in there as quickly as possible. Until we get there to see how much mold there is, it’s hard to put an exact timeframe on it. The hope is that we can get in there before the summer.

Another complicating factor is the involvement of the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps actually owns the property and leases it to IDNR. IDNR, in turn, rents the facilities to its concessionaires.

“As far as we’re concerned, obviously we’re hoping the state can open it as soon as it can, because it’s a big draw for Rend Lake, Franklin County and Jefferson County,” Kevin said. Curran of the US Army Corps. from the director of engineers for Rend Lake. “It would not affect our relationship with the state. “

All parties agree that the resort is a major piece of the southern Illinois tourism puzzle.

“It’s troubling for all of us in southern Illinois to see this facility shut down,” Hamilton said. “What are you going to do when summer comes?”

“It attracts a lot of tourists not just from Illinois, from the Midwest. Our # 1 area for visitors to Rend Lake Resort was Chicago, # 2 was Metro East. These are dollars that will go elsewhere.

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