Sun City’s oldest relic
SUN CITY – Sun City is only about 14 years old, but already it has an abandoned building…sort of.
The “gatehouse,” as it is now called, was the first structure built on the property, at the main entrance at Route 47 and Del Webb Blvd. To most residents today, it is a curiosity. It sits empty and unused, a mysterious symbol of the past. To this day, visitors occasionally stop there seeking information or because they think they are required to do so because Sun City is a “gated” community.
Back in the day, however, it was the center of activity when homes were starting to rise on the Huntley prairie and buyers were flocking to the community in great numbers in the late 1990s. It was Sun City’s first welcoming, or information center, set up to direct visitors to the initial Del Webb offices that were located in the Prime Outlets Mall, starting in 1998.
“The facility was the first structure visitors saw when they came to Sun City in the first few years,” said Pat Kirschner, new chairperson of the Facility Use Committee.
“There was a staff member stationed there to help newcomers and potential buyers get to the Mall, which was nearly a mile away, and distribute maps of the development area and other literature. It was one of the major ways Del Webb initially promoted Sun City to home buyers,” said Dave Osborne, director of facility maintenance, who was hired by Del Webb in 1999. “After the Prairie Lodge was completed in 2000 and the sales center was moved into it, they kept it manned for a year or so, but eventually abandoned it.”
By 2001, however, the tiny building became a dinosaur, except for a nearby sign that directed visitors to the new lodge and sales offices. It eventually became the object of jokes (if you don’t pay your assessments, you’ll be sentenced to a night in the gatehouse). Over the years, several attempts have been made to determine a new use for it, according to Kirschner.
“When the transition from Pulte management to resident management occurred a few years ago, the Transition Steering Committee discussed what to do with the building, but no specific proposals were made,” Kirschner recalled. “The building just sort of went to sleep.”
Now, however, a serious attempt to bring it back to life has been launched. The Facility Use Committee has begun a joint study with an ad hoc committee of the Facility Advisory Committee to develop recommendations for future uses, Kirschner said. The association’s Marketing Committee also is participating. No specific proposals have been made yet.
“I think there is a serious intent now to find a way to put the facility to some good use,” Kirschner said. “We have three committees committing resources to it. We will research ideas and possibilities, and we will survey the community a bit later to get feedback. This process will take at least two months, and I hope by spring we’ll have some recommendations to make to the board of directors.”