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Article updated: 11/15/2012 4:14 PM

Wheaton Park District scuttles plans for hotel at Arrowhead

By Katlyn Smith

Wheaton Park District commissioners have pulled the plug on a proposal to bring a hotel to Arrowhead Golf Club.

Citing a sluggish economy, park commissioners Wednesday followed Executive Director Mike Benard's recommendation to suspend additional research into the project's viability.

"We obviously have other pressing things to focus on until such a time that the economy's better and a future board may want to look at it," Benard said. "We have all of the work in place for a day (when) it might be a better time for this board to consider it."

The district had planned to share a feasibility report with three developers to determine if they were still interested in obtaining a lease for property at the golf course. Of the three, only Fairway Suites LLC formally responded.

The Kansas-based company approached park officials last summer about plans for a 120-room, nationally branded hotel on the Arrowhead property at 26W151 Butterfield Road. Under the proposal, the district would have no responsibility for financing or maintaining the hotel.

In a Nov. 12 letter to Benard, Fairway President Joe Ross wrote that a hotel at Arrowhead "should continue to be pursued ... at some time in the not too distant future."

The feasibility report, prepared by Pinkowski & Company, a Memphis-based consulting firm, said the proposed hotel would generate strong weekend business fueled by social events and the 90 weddings held annually at the clubhouse.

But the same study found the hotel would do only marginal business during the week.

Pinkowski also reviewed a park district analysis on estimated revenue generated by a hotel next to the clubhouse. The firm found the district's initial projections were "overly conservative," Benard said.

Officials now estimate Arrowhead's annual revenue could range from about $400,000 to $830,000, based on hotel occupancy projections and the percentage of meals hotel guests would eat at the club's restaurant.

After Wednesday's meeting, park board President John Kelly said he could only support a hotel if it generated significant revenue.

"I'm just not convinced those are really the numbers that we're going to make if this enterprise was brought to Arrowhead," Kelly said.

Commissioner Kim VanderSchaaf continued to call the proposal "risky for the district" and contrary to its mission.

"Much as the forest preserve has said they are not a land bank for DuPage County, this is park district land that we're using, and we are actively using it right now," VanderSchaaf said. "And so to take that land being used by the public for private development I think is wrong."

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