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     January 10, 2018      #32-9 a2z
 
RiverStone Conference Center closes abruptly

The RiverStone Conference Center — one of the premier banquet locations in Kankakee County —has abruptly closed, leaving numerous event holders scrambling for an alternative location.

The closure of the conference center closely followed the $1.525 million sale on Dec. 13 of the 110-room Hilton Garden Inn from HC Kankakee LLC to Kankakee County Hospitality LLC.

The conference center had been separately owned by RCC Kankakee LLC since 2015.

Calls to the hotel at 455 RiverStone Parkway in Kankakee seeking information were unsuccessful. Hotel personal would only say the hotel was open for business. Beyond that statement, personnel had no comment.

In a letter obtained by the Daily Journal and sent to people who had booked events for 2018, the conference center management said events would not be held, effective Jan. 1.

"Any space you may have had reserved in the conference center has been cancelled," the letter stated. "... We have enjoyed our time serving you and the entire Kankakee/Bourbonnais community and sincerely regret any inconvenience."

Coupled with the Dec. 31 closure of the Country Mansion in Dwight, event planners are facing shrinking options.

The conference center and the hotel are connected under the same roof. The complex opened in 2002.

One event forced to relocate was the Conservation Cropping 2018 Seminar set for Jan. 23. Organizers learned only recently through a letter set by management that the location was no longer available.

Fortunately, organizers were able to find space available at the Quality Inn & Suites in Bradley.

Because of the dual losses of RiverStone and Country Mansion, locations such as The Majestic Theatre and the Knights of Columbus in downtown Kankakee, along with the Quality Inn & Suites, are working with groups to accommodate their needs. Olivet Nazarene University also has ability to host large events.

Staci Wilken, executive director of the Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the people who had booked events are only learning now of this situation.

"It's unfortunate. This is a beautiful facility, but there are other venues in this community," Wilken said. "This provides opportunity for other venues."

Barbi Brewer-Watson, president and CEO of the Kankakee County Chamber of Commerce, noted the chamber's Taste Fest 2018 already had been moved to the Majestic. She noted the annual event in its third year had been held at the Hilton its first two years, but she decided to move it last year. The event will be held Jan. 20.

"I had been hearing rumors and rumblings about this. I certainly hope someone takes it over," she said.

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Lee Provost Senior & Business Reporter 815-937-3364 lprovost@daily-journal.com