Pinckneyville gets 750K to help boost tourism

By Stephen Rickerl, The Southern thesouthern.com | Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 3:30 am

 

PINCKNEYVILLE - Two new museums will be established in Pinckneyville, facilities officials hope will help boost tourism in Southern Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has awarded the city with a $750,000 grant through the Community Development Systems Program. The grant is a matching-funds grant and will be used to establish the Illinois Rural Heritage Museum and the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame.

Warren Ribley, director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said he believes the new museums will help Pinckneyville and Southern Illinois grow economically through tourism.

"Tourism is a vitally important industry in the state of Illinois," Ribley said. "It's a $30.8 billion industry and employs over 300,000 people within the state."

He said through the efforts of the board of directors of the Foundation for the Future of Pinckneyville, the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame, the Illinois Rural Heritage Museum and Pinckneyville city officials; they are helping to build on the strengths of the tourism industry in Illinois. Ribley said that in 2008 tourism attracted 88 million domestic visitors and 1.4 million international visitors, which generated $33 million in state and local taxes. The economic impact of tourism on Southern Illinois was $428 million which includes tourism dollars spent in the local economy.

"As we look at new ways to bring in revenue and get Illinoisan's working again, tourism is going to play a role," Ribley said.

Former Pinckneyville basketball coach and executive director of the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame Dick Corn said the museum would showcase success stories of the teams, players and coaches who have helped create the heritage of high school basketball in Illinois. The museum will feature stories about overcoming adversity, sportsmanship and teamwork.

"We need to highlight the accomplishments and achievements of the athletes, coaches and the history of the game itself," Corn said. "This area is a hotbed of high school basketball, was, is and always will be."

Charles Greer, president of the Illinois Rural Heritage Museum, said the new museum will be located directly north of the Pinckneyville fairgrounds. He said the purpose of the museum will be to educate the public on the rural heritage of Illinois and to preserve and restore important equipment and artifacts that would otherwise be lost.

Pinckneyville Mayor Joseph Holder said obtaining the grants will go a long way toward the development of Pinckneyville and Southern Illinois tourism, but it will also help preserve what the region already has to offer.

"There is a history and a cultural part of this state that needs to be preserved," Holder said.

stephen.rickerl@thesouthen.com

618-351-5823

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