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Local News

Joliet wants state to extend lease on Old Joliet Prison

Negotiations start as Joliet lines up national company to open scary attraction

Several members from the Illinois Bureau of Tourism tour the Old Joliet Prison on Sept. 26 in Joliet. The Joliet City Council is negotiating with the state of Illinois for a longer lease at the old Joliet Correctional Center.
Several members from the Illinois Bureau of Tourism tour the Old Joliet Prison on Sept. 26 in Joliet. The Joliet City Council is negotiating with the state of Illinois for a longer lease at the old Joliet Correctional Center.

The Joliet City Council is negotiating with the state of Illinois for a longer lease at the old Joliet Correctional Center.

The negotiations are taking place as Joliet lines up its first big private venture at the prison, which the city has already turned into a touring spot and now is about to convert into an entertainment venue.

The council will vote next week on a three-year lease with Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group, a national operator of haunted houses that wants to use the old women’s prison at the Joliet Correctional Center.

Thirteenth Floor is getting a three-year lease because that’s all Joliet has to offer at this point, Assistant City Attorney Chris Regis told the Joliet City Council Prison Committee this week.

“That is the duration of our lease with the state,” Regis said. “We can’t go further. Everyone knows an extended lease is desirable.”

Regis did not provide details on how long Joliet wants to extend the lease.

But city officials have talked about a longer stay at the prison since local efforts to put the Joliet Correctional Center to new use have begun to show results.

The city plans to spend $300,000 on prison projects this year. But the entire amount is expected to be recovered from revenues through tours and other paid events held at the prison.

Thirteenth Floor executives told the Prison Committee that the company plans to spend $500,000 on renovation and remodeling to convert the women’s prison into a haunted house that will open in mid-September and continue to be used for events year-round.

The reopening of the prison for tourism and events has gotten notice from state officials.

An Illinois Office of Tourism news release listing new events coming to the state in 2020 includes plans this summer for a 40th Anniversary celebration of the movie “The Blues Brothers,” which was partially filmed at the prison.

The plan is to hold the anniversary celebration Aug. 21 and 22, Greg Peerbolte, executive director of the Joliet Area Historical Museum, told the Prison Committee. The museum organizes tours and events at the prison.

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