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Gov. Pritzker announces $17.5M in funding to renovate Rend Lake Resort

Paducah-Cape Girard KFVS-TV logo Paducah-Cape Girard KFVS-TV 8/4/2022 Marsha Heller

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ill. (KFVS) - Governor JB Pritzker announced millions of dollars in funding to renovate the Rend Lake Resort in southern Illinois.

He said the renovation will get underway in 2023 with an investment of more than $17.5 million.

The funding will be used to renovate the conference center, restaurant, cabins, pool and boatel, which will enable the resort to host lodging guests, conferences and other visitors and events.

“Rend Lake has been around for 50 years—and for that half-a-century, it has been a shining example of the rich history, the human ingenuity, and the values of sustainability that make Illinois special,” Governor JB Pritzker said. “Today, I am proud to announce that we will be investing more than $17 million to renovate Rend Lake Resort—restoring the site to its former glory. With this funding, we are strengthening our tourism industry, our economy, our recreational offerings, and our holistic and social wellbeing all in one.”

The Rend lake Resort and Conference Center sits on the banks of Rend Lake in the 3,300-acre Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area. It is operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The resort features a hotel, conference center, cabins, restaurant, boatel, gift shop, pool, tennis courts and more.

The Rend lake Resort and Conference Center in Whittington, Ill. sits empty. It was closed in December 2016 because of mold, peeling paint and other health-related issues, as well as payment issues with the vendor. © Provided by Paducah-Cape Girard KFVS-TV The Rend lake Resort and Conference Center in Whittington, Ill. sits empty. It was closed in December 2016 because of mold, peeling paint and other health-related issues, as well as payment issues with the vendor.

It opened in May 1991 and was closed in December 2016 because of mold, peeling paint and other health-related issues, as well as payment issues with the vendor.

According to a release from the governor’s office, at the height of its operation, the resort drew 2.4 million visitors annually and employed up to 125 staff members. It had an estimated economic impact of nearly $245 million in 2010, and occupancy rates were around 90 percent during the high-season period between late spring and late fall.

Rend Lake was officially recognized in 2007 as one of the seven wonders in Illinois.

There has been a push to reopen the now closed resort in Whittington for several years.

“Rend Lake Resort was and will be again, an important part of our regional economic engine for Southern Illinois,” Sesser Mayor Jason Ashmore said. “The resort will offer more opportunities to visitors of Rend Lake which will in turn spur economic growth for all of the surrounding communities. We want to thank Governor JB Pritzker, DNR, CDB, Senator Bryant, Senator Fowler and Rep Severin for all their hard work on making this come to fruition.”

“I want to thank Gov. Pritzker for helping us make this long-awaited project a reality,” Colleen Callahan, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said. “This is so much more than an investment in the Rend Lake Resort. It’s also an investment in our state parks, in local jobs, in the regional economy, and in the people of Southern Illinois.”

Rend Lake is the second largest of Illinois’ three man-made lakes with 19,000 acres of water and 162 miles of shoreline. The lake itself is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is a tremendous economic driver for southern Illinois.

Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area draws more than 1.3 million visitors annually.

Dedicated in 1975, the park is popular for hunting, camping, wildlife-watching, picnicking, boating access, horseback riding, field trails and other outdoor activities.

It is named for the late Wayne Fitzgerrell, a former State representative from nearby Sesser who was a strong advocate for the construction of Rend Lake.

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