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Article updated: 4/25/2013 8:09 PM

$5.5 million Settler's Hill Golf Course revamp considered in phases

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A committee of Kane County Forest Preserve District commissioners Thursday took the first steps toward what might eventually be a $5.5 million renovation of Settler's Hill Golf Course.

It would start with a $550,000 first phase.

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Golf revenue has declined the past few years. Some say Settler's Hill, on Fabyan Parkway in Batavia, is a bit outdated because it has no driving range or practice area and is limited as a golf outing facility.

The district offers golf attractions at Settler's Hill, Deer Valley and Hughes Creek. Thanks to guaranteed minimum profit levels established in contracts with the management companies that run the courses, the district raked in $380,000 in each of the past three golf seasons. But that's only come with the management companies kicking in a bit more of their own profits, particularly for Settler's Hill.

To reverse that trend, commissioners envision a $5.5 million plan that would add a driving range, a new clubhouse and a new par-3 course, as well as revamp every existing hole on the course.

The district, however, doesn't have the money to make that vision a reality.

For now, commissioners are eying a phased approach that would begin with the driving range and hole No. 1. That plan will cost about $550,000.

The district doesn't have that money, either.

The plan is to get the money from the county, which controls $9.5 million in profits it tucked away from the old landfill that operated at Settler's Hill. The cash has sat untapped for many years.

On Thursday, a committee of commissioners -- who also are county board members -- agreed now is the time to tap into the $9.5 million. The idea is to use $550,000 from the account to build the driving range and redesign the No. 1 hole.

If golfers react favorably, officials might consider the remaining $5 million worth of course improvements.

"I'd like to see the county board getting accustomed to dipping into that landfill fund to redevelop the landfill area," commissioner Mike Donahue said. "This would be a good wading of the toe into the water. That $9.5 million is just sitting there. It needs to start to be used for improvements."

Donahue said he fears the county may find other uses for the $9.5 million that have nothing to do with redeveloping the former landfill if the money sits untouched too long.

Donahue is also the county board member who last year led the task force that mapped out a redevelopment plan for the entire Fabyan Parkway campus, which includes the landfill. That plan would bring a cross country track, observation tower, small concert venue and other amenities to the campus.

Those improvements could conceivably make use of some or all of the $9.5 million.

With that other wish list in mind, Forest Preserve District President John Hoscheit said the county board and forest preserve must collaborate on priorities before moving too far along with golf course improvements. He said for now he's supporting the use of only $550,000 from the account.

"This is not a commitment to go to $5 million here," Hoscheit said. "I'll invest in some of the other amenities we talked about before getting beyond this point. We've been looking to have a driving range facility for years. With this, we get that and we get the one hole redesigned. Then we'll see. We have to make sure the enthusiasm for golf stays there first."

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