The deal to bring Thirteenth Floor to the Old Joliet Prison was approved by the Joliet City Council on Tuesday.
The company that runs 14 haunted houses in 12 cities each year plans to open in Joliet by mid-September.
“We think the property is pretty incredible,” Jon Love, founding partner with Thirteenth Floor, told the council before the vote. “It fits into our wheelhouse.”
Love described Thirteenth Floor as “the world’s largest Halloween-themed entertainment company. We’ve been in business for 17 years.”
The company plans to make an initial investment of $500,000 to renovate the former women’s prison, located on the east side of Collins Street from the main prison, and get it ready for the Halloween season opening.
Thirteenth Floor’s strengths, he said, include marketing that brings media attention to its operations.
“We believe we can bring that spotlight to this property given its unique nature,” he said.
Thirteenth Floor gets a three-year lease because that’s all Joliet has remaining on its lease with the state that provides access and development rights at the former Joliet Correctional Center. But the city is in the process of trying to extend the lease.
The company will pay $20,000 rent this year, $25,000 in 2021 and $30,000 in 2022.
Thirteenth Floor will give the city $1 for every guest once attendance surpasses 10,000 this year. In the next two years, Joliet will get $1 for every guest that attends.
The company is estimating that attendance will start at 20,000 a year and eventually exceed 35,000.
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk commended the company for its plans.
“This had been a blighted area, a blighted property for a long time,” O’Dekirk said. “It’s great to see private investment in that area.”
Love replied, “Blighted, distressed properties are great locations for what we do.”
This is not the first haunted house plan for the former women’s prison.
Evil Intentions, which runs a haunted house in Elgin out of a former casket factory, got a lease in 2018 to open at the Joliet site that Halloween but was unable to follow through on the plan.
City officials have expressed confidence that Thirteenth Floor has the wherewithal to open in the old building and have said the lease provides Joliet with guarantees that the haunted house will open this year.
Joliet is waiving fees on building permits for the renovation.
Love said the company hopes to host year-round activities, noting Thirteenth Floor also runs game rooms and ax-throwing bars.