A year after being shuttered by court order, Eagle Creek Resort and Conference Center near Findlay has a chance at a new life.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has approved an agreement Wednesday with BMDD Resorts Corporation of Decatur for redevelopment and operation of the the resort.
The 23-year-old resort was shuttered in July 2009 because of mold and financial issues.
The IDNR took over the property shortly after the closure of the facility and began the search for a new manager.
“It was unfortunate to have to close it (Eagle Creek Resort) in the first place,” said IDNR spokesperson Chris McCloud. “We worked as fast as we could to turn this over to someone. We are not a property manager so it is exciting for us to hand this over to someone responsible.”
“There were four bids submitted and this company met the needs of the department,” McCloud said.
He added that BMDD Corporation was approved earlier this year but the contract had to be worked out between them and the IDNR.
Part of the agreement states that BMDD will pay the IDNR $40,000 a year for 10 years to operate the resort. Renovations could cost as much as $3 million.
“This is exciting news for Eagle Creek State Recreation Area and the Lake Shelbyville region as the agreement clears the way for millions of dollars in private investment in the complex - and the reopening of the resort, which will provide a huge boost to the area economy and create jobs,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “BMDD Resorts Corporation has pledged improvements that will make Eagle Creek Resort the perfect destination for golfers, anglers, business meetings, and family vacations.”
BMDD has already taken over management of the golf course at the resort and plans to reopen it later this summer.
“We have been maintaining the golf course grounds since March,” said Mike Ballinger of BMDD. “We are starting to ramp up the renovations on the course itself to be able to open it in August. We’ve had a lot of golfers call about it.”
Ballinger also said that work will begin immediately on redevelopment of the lodge and conference center facility and is expected to reopen in 2011.
“It’s a wonderful facility and I see a lot of potential in it,” Ballinger said. “I’ve been there myself for conferences. I’ve noticed the slight decline over the years.”
BMDD plans a multi-phase redevelopment project for the complex, including roof replacement; mold remediation; replacement of furniture, fixtures, and mechanical systems; complete guest room renovations; kitchen, conference room and restaurant and lounge renovations; and indoor pool facility rehabilitation.
“It will be about a year’s worth of work,” he said.
BMDD will manage the facility according to the state guidelines.
The closure of the facility last year impacted finances for Shelby County. With the reopening, there is a positive outlook at the local level.
“We could definitely tell a difference because we didn’t get the motel taxes,” said County Board chairman Dick Clark. “I feel this (the reopening) is a great thing for the county. It will help our tourism and enhance our county.”
Clark added that having a local management will help with the success of the facility.
“They know what our area is. They must feel positive about it themselves to take it on,” Clark said.
State Representative Bill Mitchell on a stop in Shelbyville Thursday said he was very pleased with the news about the reopening of Eagle Creek.
“The sooner they get the golf course open, the best for the economy for this area, ” Mitchell said.
“It’s an attraction that definitely needs to be utilized. The tourism dollars for this county is huge. The tourism industry pays dividends to this area.” added visiting state representative candidate Adam Brown, who accompanied Mitchell.
The Shelby County Office of Tourism will also benefit from the reopening as some funding will be restored, according to director Freddie Fry.
“Just getting the golf course reopened will bring another layer of focus to our area,” Fry said. “Having an area based firm manage it is a benefit because they know about our area and what we have to offer.”