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updated: 2/3/2012 1:32 PM

Old Kane County jail site could house Ravinia-like facility

Music venue, hotel, sports facilities in plans

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  • LAURA STOECKER/ Big plans are envisioned for the 700-acre campus on Fabyan Parkway in Geneva that once was the site of the Kane County jail.

      LAURA STOECKER/ Big plans are envisioned for the 700-acre campus on Fabyan Parkway in Geneva that once was the site of the Kane County jail.


Kane County officials are looking to turn the old jail site and adjacent 700-acre campus into a conglomeration of big-ticket venues that may thrust the land onto the national stage.

A task force of county board members, local mayors and planners agreed Thursday to pitch a plan to taxpayers that incorporates all the ideas formerly discussed -- and more -- for the old jail on Fabyan Parkway in Geneva. The plan, as laid out on a conceptual drawing, includes a Ravinia-type concert venue with a footprint the same size as the actual Ravinia in Highland Park. The plan also calls for a privately owned conference center/hotel. Those two features alone are expected to be big, tax-generating draws to the site.

But the plan also calls for at least two high-profile sports uses for the land. County officials said they have already had several meetings with USA Track & Field representatives who believe they can bring national-level cross country meets to the site if officials are willing to create a venue that could host crowds of up to 5,000 people. County officials believe they can indeed create such a venue in addition to the hotel and concert venues.

On top of all that, the Chicago Area Mountain Bikers organization believes the site could host a mountain biking facility that would be a major attraction for up to 4,000 enthusiasts in the area who now travel up to Wisconsin to bike.

"The overall perspective is there are needs and wants and desires for public access to open space, recreation and economic development," said task force Chairman Mike Donahue. "In our assessment of the 700-acre site, we found there is plenty of opportunity to accomplish all of those objectives."

County officials said they've already had several companies express interests in creating the hotel/conference center and outdoor theater.

But making the drawing come to life will mean working out a realistic traffic flow pattern for the area as well as on-site parking. County staff members believe adequate parking already exists if a scheduling arrangement can be worked out to share the nearby lot used by Kane County Cougars fans. That lot is capable of accommodating several thousand vehicles.

Cougars games, the Fox Valley Ice Arena facility and the adjacent Settler's Hill Golf Course are all seen as complementary uses for the envisioned future facility. Indeed, Kane County Forest Preserve District officials said they are exploring renovations for the golf course that would include moving hole No. 1 farther east. Doing so would allow the golf course to build a driving range. The updating of tee boxes and greens is also on the to-do list. The renovations would be the first major changes at the course in 20 years.

County and forest preserve officials are planning a series of community stakeholder meetings to pitch the vision to local residents.

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