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 releasing $17.5 million to renovate and remodel the Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center near Ina.
That’s good news for Linton and for the area, which has missed the facility since it was closed in December 2016 because of mold, peeling paint, maintenance problems and issues with the concessionaire who ran the facility. Linton said his tourism organization is primarily funded through a tax on motel stays in the county, the tourism council lost about 60% of its revenue when the facility closed.
“That comes into our marketing fund and allows us to reach out to Chicago and wider areas,” he said. “It’s also going to give us a real strong branding for the lake because the resort was really kind of a key part of our marketing.”
He explained that the economic benefits of the reopening go far beyond revenue to promote the area as it will help other area businesses.
“There is a lot of new businesses in the area and the tourism infrastructure around the lake is going to increase with this as well,” he said. “Tourism is one of the biggest things we have in Franklin County. I’m hopeful this will stimulate more tourism-related development.”
The Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center is located in the 3,300-acre Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park near Whittington. The revamped facility is expected to offer more than 100 hotel-style rooms as well as a conference center, cabins, restaurant, boatel, gift shop, pool, tennis courts and more. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources oversees the property, but likely will contract with a third party to run the resort.
According to a media release from the governor’s office, the resort drew 2.4 million visitors annually and employed as many as 125 staff members. It had an estimated economic impact of nearly $245 million in 2010 with and occupancy rates of about 90 percent during the high-season period between late spring and late fall.
Currently, lodging options for Rend Lake visitors who do not want to stay at a campground are limited with few nearby hotel rooms. Linton said many people have chosen to stay in Marion or Mount Vernon.
Angela Schrum, director of tourism for the City of Mount Vernon, said her city will benefit from the new resort and an increased number of visitors to Rend Lake.
“This will help get people to the lake area and that will benefit all of the communities around it,” she said.
State Rep. Dave Severin said the funds would “bring the Resort and Conference Center back to being a world class facility. This investment will bring jobs, tourism, and economic development to Southern Illinois and revitalize the Rend Lake Resort Property.”
Renovation work on the Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center is expected to begin in 2023.
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Region: Southern,Local,City: Carbondale,Region: Carbondale
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August 5, 2022 at 05:02PM