WHITTINGTON — The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is continuing its quest to find vendors interested in rehabbing and reopening facilities at the Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area near Rend Lake at Whittington, sweetening the deal with up to $1.5 million in financial incentives to help with renovations.
The state terminated a lease agreement in 2016 with Rend Lake Resort Inc. as the previous operator fell tens of thousands of dollars behind in rent payments, utility bills and hotel operator’s taxes. The facilities also had fallen into disrepair.
For the past three years, IDNR has been looking for a new operator. But previous requests for proposals didn’t get any bidders. So the state is taking a different tack this time around.
“We’ve changed the way it’s written so that we can offer it up a little bit differently, and hopefully get some folks out there who can get things going again,” said IDNR spokeswoman Rachel Torbert.
In addition to enticing prospective operators with state financial assistance, IDNR is also accepting bids from people interested in operating smaller sections of the Rend Lake complex. The five options available, as well as the financial assistance winning bidders can receive for each option, are as follows:
- Option 1: All facilities, up to $1.5 million;
- Option 2: All facilities within the property excluding the hotel, up to $1 million;
- Option 3: Lodging facilities, cabins, boatels and pool, up to $500,000;
- Option 4: Restaurant, gift shop, boat dock with fuel dispensing station, up to $250,000;
- Option 5: Conference/event center, up to $250,000.
IDNR is hosting a vendor conference at 11 a.m. Thursday at Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area, at 11712 East Windy Lane in Whittington. Attendance is mandatory for the state to consider submitted bids. Proposals received from vendors who do not attend the vendor conference will not be opened or considered, Connie Waggoner, IDNR assistant director, Office of Realty and Capital Planning, said in a statement. “More importantly, this request for proposal is quite different from most requests issued by the department, so it’s a good opportunity to get more information and have questions answered,” she added.
When the state shut down the facilities in 2016, they found mold, peeling paint and other health and safety concerns. Since that time, the state has remediated mold in all areas of the resort. However, when the remediation was completed, some walls were left with holes, or taken down completely. The successful vendor or vendors will have the responsibility of repairing the facilities, as well as renovating aging buildings, with the help of the state’s financial contribution.
State Sen. Dale Fowler said he is holding out hope that the Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center will see a new day. This most recent RFP should entice more bidders to the table, he said. The financial assistance may help bring in an entity from Missouri that’s been eyeing the opportunity for some time, he said. And there may be others that decide to take a fresh look at it, as well.
“Ideally we’d like to have someone taking it all over, but dividing it up gives people some options,” Fowler said.
On Twitter: @MollyParkerSI