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November 19, 1999

Governor Announces $970,000 In Tourism Development Grants

SPRINGFIELD - Governor George H. Ryan today announced that 17 grants totaling more than $970,000 have been awarded to help communities and organizations throughout Illinois develop tourism attractions and programs.

"Tourism is now a $21 billion industry in Illinois," Ryan said. "This boom is being fueled by the kinds of grass-roots attraction and development efforts this grant program supports. By supplying these funds we will keep our tourism momentum building."

The Tourism Attraction Development Grant Program provides grants to municipalities, counties and local not-for-profit groups for the development and improvement of tourist attractions. Funds may be used to improve an existing tourist attraction, or for the development of new attractions with the potential to attract tourists from outside a 100-mile radius, thus generating increased overnight stays.

Funds may also be used to conduct research as well as feasibility studies and management/marketing planning for new tourist attractions and for the creation, implementation and staffing of interpretive programs located within historic/cultural sites. A grant can be up to 50 percent of the amount of actual expenditures for a tourist development project, not to exceed a maximum award of $100,000.

The Tourism Attraction Development Grant Program is administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA).

"Local organizations should be commended for their aggressive efforts to expand tourism in their areas," DCCA Director Pam McDonough said. "By acting as a partner in these efforts, state government is helping to find new ways to bring more visitors to Illinois, boosting economic activity and increasing our quality of life."

Grants were awarded to the following organizations and communities:

The City of Altamont will receive $44,160 to continue renovation of the Altamont Living Museum. The grant will assist the community in making the facility A.D.A. compatible and completing the renovation of the food service area to provide accommodations for a dinner theater to attract overnight motor coach tours.

The City of Charleston will receive $100,000 in funds to construct and operate a museum at the Coles County Fairgrounds, commemorating the Lincoln-Douglas debate held at the site on September 18, 1858. This project will provide another focal point for Coles County as part of the "Looking for Lincoln Heritage Tourism" project. The modern log cabin structure will house the museum and create an additional reason for people to visit and explore the Charleston area.

The Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago will receive $100,000 to purchase new light displays for the "ZooLights Festival." This annual event opens the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs through the first Sunday in January. This is the fifth year of the event and the Zoo is expanding and improving light displays to continue generating excitement and attracting visitors from throughout the Midwest.

The Chicago Botanic Garden will receive $95,768 to purchase a new Tram for the Garden. The Grand Tram Tour is the Garden's most popular exhibit, with more than 80,000 riders each year. The tour is narrated and takes 45 minutes to complete. An additional tram will enable the Garden to provide a fourth vehicle to tour visitors.

The SLG Cohen Foundation Inc., in partnership with the Three Sisters Park of Chillicothe, will receive $100,000 to develop a Living History Village and Farm, named Catalpa Hill. This village, along with a 1918 era working farm, will be a unique attraction that, when completed, will draw visitors from the area and throughout the nation. The project will serve as a model farm for the purposes of education, recreation and conservation.

The Idea Adventures Children's Museum of Crystal Lake will receive a $97,500 grant to purchase equipment and machinery through the Challenger Center National Network to complete internal fabrication of the Center. The Challenger Learning Center is part of a nationwide network of 33 centers growing to 50 centers by the year 2000. This is a science and technology center patterned after mission control at Johnson Space Center and a real working space station. Children will visit the center through family visits and school programs.

The Decatur Park District will receive a $100,000 grant to assist in building a sports facility that will enable the community to host large sporting events that will attract visitors from throughout Illinois and surrounding states. The $5.3 million facility will include a full-size indoor soccer field, four basketball courts, a full-sized running track, full locker accommodations and many other amenities.

Township of Equality will receive a $42,795 grant to create an Interpretive Center for Gallatin County. The building will highlight the rural ambiance of the Ohio River Scenic Route with shaded walkways, a small pond for relaxation and ample parking space. The development of this project supports the Heritage Tourism Designation given to the region and enhances a visitor's experience along the Ohio River.

The Looking for Lincoln Heritage Tourism Project will receive a $16,000 grant to continue working with a research historian to obtain information on the life and times of Abraham Lincoln throughout the Project area. The historian will work in conjunction with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to conduction an assessment of the interpretive programs at Lincoln-related tourist attractions to develop a plan to upgrade and improve the overall experience a visitor receives when visiting these sites.

The City of Normal will receive a $100,000 grant to expand the existing recreational facility known as Maxwell Park. This 125-acre site will be expanded to include four new softball fields to be located to the west of the existing four-diamond complex. The new fields will serve as home for the Bloomington Normal Girls Softball Association and provide additional facilities for large major tournaments, such as the Amateur Softball Assocation 18 and Under Girls Fast Pitch. This tournament will attract more than 30,000 visitors generating over $1.5 million to the local and regional economies.

The Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, in partnership with the Illinois River Valley Heritage Tourism Project, will receive $6,053.25 to provide the Illinois River Valley with a Hospitality Training Program. The Program will educate hospitality industry owners and operators on ways to provide excellent customer service.

The Perry County Historical Society will receive a $12,000 grant to renovate the exterior of the Perry County Jail Museum. The renovations include a new roof, a new front porch and a handicap ramp at the southwest entry to the building.

The Burpee Museum of Natural History, Rockford will receive a $10,500 grant to conduct a marketing study to determine the support for the development of a large format theater jointly owned by Burpee Museum and the Discovery Center Museum. This study is the first step in working with the large format theater developers.

Historic Sailor Springs Foundation will receive $6,794.08 for renovation of Dr. A.M. Sparling's home and office. This structure is the last grand residential home remaining in the small rural community that once boasted a glorious resort and spring water industry. The funding will repair the home and convert it to a visitors and medical history interpretation center for the region.

The Springfield Children's Museum will receive a $96,500 grant to create a River Gallery depicting a contemporary of a young Abraham Lincoln and his relationship to the Sangamon River. The project will feature the themes of history, natural science and engineering through fun and informal exhibits.

The City of Springfield, Oak Ridge Cemetery will receive a $3,000 grant to develop an audiocassette tape tour directing tourists along a marked route within Oak Ridge Cemetery. Visitors will be able to obtain the tape and listen to descriptions of architectural styles of tombstones and memorials used throughout the last century. The tour will be promoted as "Stones on Tape," offering an opportunity for families to delve into genealogical research and also provide historical information about individuals and their monuments.

The City of Vienna will receive a $39,050 grant to restore the Forman Railroad Depot. This wood frame structure was originally constructed in 1900. The Depot will be moved from a farmer's field to the Vienna City Park to be used along the Tunnel Hill State Trail and will provide the public with an additional amenity to enjoy along the trail. The Depot will serve as a visitors center, and the museum will provide restroom facilities.


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