Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 am
Spotlight On: Walworth County
Live racing at the Geneva Lakes Kennel Club in Delavan ended in November, and simulcast betting at the dog track will end on June 30. After that, the future of the 135-acre Geneva Lakes property is still undetermined. The property is located at a prime site at the southeast corner of Highway 50 and Interstate 43.
Delavan Crossings, the hottest retail development in Walworth County, is just across the street from Geneva Lakes. So, the dog track site may attract retail developers.
Since 2000, the Delavan Crossings development has attracted three big-box anchors: a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a Kohl’s store and a Lowe’s store. Several smaller stores and restaurants have also opened locations in Delavan Crossings, including Culver’s, Panera Bread, Chili’s, Aldi, Radio Shack, Quiznos, Great Clips, Game Stop, U.S. Cellular, Check ‘n Go, Yo Shi Japanese Cuisine, Domino’s, Associated Bank, Coldwell Banker and Sonoma Cellars.
In addition, Spectrum Development Group is building a multi-tenant building for eight or nine tenants, including a Starbucks cafe.
Recently, Delavan Retail III purchased 23 acres of land next to Lowe’s from Household Finance Corp. III. Mid-America Real Estate brokered the sale.
Delavan Retail III plans to build 80,000 square feet of retail space with some "mid-box" stores (about 20,000 square feet each) and some smaller stores, said Dan Rosenfeld, Mid-America principal.
"We are working with a sporting goods retailer, an office supply store and a pet retailer in addition to a couple of smaller women’s clothing retailers," Rosenfeld said. Since none of the deals are complete, he declined to name the prospective stores.
There is room for another 100,000 square feet of retail space in Delavan Crossings, Rosenfeld said. In addition, Mid-America is marketing 94 acres of undeveloped land north of Delavan Crossings as a potential site for housing development.
The I-43/Highway 50 interchange has become the most popular place for national retailers to enter Walworth County.
"Delavan has been very proactive in establishing itself as the retail trading zone of Walworth County," Rosenfeld said.
Located just east of Delavan Crossings is Lake Lawn Resort, which last year began a $390 million renovation and expansion. The resort plans to add 1,000 guest suites, increasing its room count to 1,222. The expansion project will also include a 130,000-square-foot indoor water park, a 165-slip marina and boardwalk with a festival retail complex, a 30,000-square-foot spa, a 150,000-square-foot conference center a redesigned golf course with a new clubhouse and five new restaurants.
The success of Delavan Crossings and the expansion of Lake Lawn Resort could make the soon to be abandoned Geneva Lakes dog track an attractive site for commercial real estate developers.
The property is owned by Chicago attorney Robert Glick, who is hoping to complete a deal to sell the property by the end of June.
"We are talking to a lot of commercial developers, but we don’t have a contract yet," said Geneva Lakes vice president and general manager Milt Roth.
The main building on the dog track site is 111,000 square feet and is in "great shape," Roth said.
"Some people are talking about trying to salvage the building," he said. "I’ve had (developers with ideas of) everything from movie theaters to hotels, to three to four level retail like you have in some other cities."
Other developers would likely demolish the main building to clear space for big-box stores, similar to the ones built on the north side of Highway 50.
City of Delavan building and zoning commissioner Joe Mesler said he has heard from several attorneys representing clients interested in buying the dog track property. One potential buyer wanted to build condos near Highway 50 with a grocery store and a shopping center in the back, he said.
"It’s an attractive site for almost anything," Mesler said. "The (exposure) from I-43 is just terrific."
Some prospective owners have expressed interest in modifying the dog track into a horse racing track, Roth said. Horse racing is more popular than dog racing. But a horse racing track would have to compete with horse tracks in the Chicago area and with casinos in Wisconsin. Geneva Lakes couldn’t compete with the casinos and was stymied by Wisconsin’s regulatory environment, Roth said.
"I don’t think anyone is going to operate it as a dog track," he said.
Geneva Lakes opened in 1990. Its attendance slipped from 267,000 in 1998 to 166,000 in 2003, 155,000 in 2004 and to 129,407 last year.
Glick bought the track in 1996 and hoped to partner with a Native American tribe to add a casino. The Ho-Chunk Nation was interested, but could not get its plans approved by the state, Roth said.
Roth said the dog track cannot compete with the casinos, which have added more games through compact negotiations with the state.
"The competition is very difficult," he said. "They can do things we can’t do."
After the Geneva Lakes dog track closes, Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha will be the only dog track left in the state. Dairyland’s owners are suing the state, claiming that all casinos in the state are illegal. At the same time, Dairyland’s owners are hedging their bets if the lawsuit fails by seeking state and federal approval to partner with the Menominee tribe to expand the Kenosha track by adding a casino, hotel, restaurants and other entertainment venues.
Geneva Lakes just wants to sell its property.
"I’ve got all kinds of ideas (from developers)," Roth said. "But I don’t have a check yet."
Selling the property could be a challenge as a single-use property. In addition, retail chains may be wondering how much more retail the Delavan area can support.
Several other stores and restaurants are located along the Highway 50 corridor on the west side of I-94 including Shopko, Pick ‘n Save, Piggly Wiggly, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Cousins, Perkins, Fashion Bug, Check Into Cash, GNC, Blockbuster, Dollar Tree and Cost Cutters.
A Kmart store that was closed in 2003 remains vacant. A Tractor Supply store will occupy some space in the building this spring, Mesler said.
The Pick ‘n Save store and a few other stores remain in the shopping center that includes the Kmart space. A Walgreens store is moving from that strip center to a freestanding store that is under construction nearby.
Key Walworth County Projects
- Continued development of Delavan Crossings, a retail development at I-43 and Highway 50 that includes Wal-Mart, Kohl’s and Lowe’s stores.
- Potential redevelopment of the 135-acre Geneva Lakes Kennel Club dog track in Delavan, which will close in June.
- Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan has begun a $390 million renovation and expansion project. The resort will add 1,000 guest suites, increasing its room count to 1,222. The expansion project also will include a 130,000-square-foot indoor water park, a 165-slip marina and boardwalk with festival complex, a 30,000-square-foot spa, a 150,000-square-foot conference center, five new restaurants and a redesigned golf course with a new clubhouse.
- Geneva, Ill.-based Sho-Deen Construction is planning a mixed-use development for 2,000 acres in the Town of Delavan roughly bounded by I-43, Highway 67, County Highway F and Highway 50. The company plans to develop office buildings and light industrial facilities on the property along I-43. Retail development and small offices are planned along Town Hall Road. The plans also include a resort hotel and possibly a golf course. The project would also include single-family and multi-family homes.
- Sho-Deen has also proposed a development with 2,000 to 3,000 homes for a 947-acre property adjacent to the Village of Walworth. The project could also include a golf course, hotel and commercial buildings.
- Schaumburg, Ill.-based Wight Realty Group plans to rebuild the Hilmoor Golf Club in Lake Geneva adding 278 single-family and multi-family homes and a 100-room hotel.
- Potential redevelopment of Lake Geneva Sentry store, which will close soon.
- Palatine, Ill.-based Hummel Group wants to build 1,080 homes on 718 acres between South Lake Shore Drive and Highway 120 in Lake Geneva. The development would include a fitness center, spa and some retail space.
- Marcus Theatres eventually plans to build a movie theater cineplex in East Troy.