The signature waterfall atop the "adventure" miniature golf course at the Libertyville Sports Complex has been dry since the last putt dropped five years ago.
Deemed to be more valuable for the land it occupies at the busy intersection of Route 45 and Peterson Road, the 27-hole course closed at the end of the 2007 season and was put on the market for development.
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But with no acceptable offers and the economy still shaky, a Plan B has surfaced that could have the water flowing once again by summer. And if the details work out, palm trees could become part of a revived landscape amid the prairie grasses.
"We do not have a lease but we have a letter of intent," said Chicago resident Ryan Tracy, who wants to reopen the facility as the Hawaiian-themed Aloha Falls. "We're just trying to get funding in place."
Figuring some revenue would be better than nothing, village officials have agreed to become landlords if need be and have fashioned a three-year lease for the course, parking lot and a nearby building.
The adjoining batting cages, which along with the miniature golf courses (one 18-hole, one 9-hole) are part of the what is known as the family entertainment portion of the Sports Complex, would not be part of the lease. Any pact would need approval of the full village board.
The proposed terms include the recognition that things could change at any time and a reimbursement for a portion of Tracy's estimated $100,000 investment should the village receive an acceptable purchase offer for the property.
The rent as proposed would be $3,500 per month through April 30, 2013, increasing to $4,000 per month the following year and $5,000 per month the third year.
"We went into this 'buyer beware, seller beware,' " said Connie Kowal, the village's director of recreation and the Sports Complex. "Everyone has been upfront about the whole thing."
With the exception of an adjoining building, which the village spent $6,000 to bring up to snuff for a potential rental, Tracy would be responsible for everything else.
A proposed deal has been in the works for several months with Tracy, a self-described miniature golf enthusiast who said he has been playing for several years.
His initial plan for what would be his first venture into this business was to open an indoor entertainment center to include a miniature golf course in Chicago. But the cost and other factors were prohibitive.
"We decided we would start a little bit smaller and look at something a little more manageable," he said. While scouting locations, he drove by the Libertyville facility, realized the waterfall wasn't operating, and got in touch with Kowal.
"I've walked the grounds with him several times," Kowal said. "He had miniature golf course experts and consultants. We're very hopeful."
Tracy said he would keep the natural landscape but make some changes, such as creating two separate courses that shared nine holes and establishing an identity as a fun-for-all-ages activity.
"We're trying to go for a relaxed tropical feel," he said. "Yes, we will have palm trees."
The 48-acre Sports Complex also includes the centerpiece 160,000-square-foot indoor sports facility and the 80-station Golf Learning Center.
The indoor portion makes money but not enough to cover the $1 million annual debt service. Revenues at the golf center have increased the past year, but it also remains for sale.
"We have not been actively marketing them, just because of the current state of the real estate market," said Village Administrator Kevin Bowens.