Aykroyd and Belushi coming back to Old Joliet Prison

$6.5 million in prison restoration planned for this year, lease extended for 1 year

Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi will return to the Old Joliet Prison this year, the head of the city museum that manages the prison site said Monday.

A repeat performance by the Blues Brothers band at the location that provided the opening scene for the 1980 film classic will be another showcase moment for the restoration of the former Joliet Correctional Center.

“We have verbal agreements on a return from Belushi and Aykroyd. We’re just working on a date,” said Greg Peerbolte, executive director of the Joliet Area Historical Museum. “I can tell you we’re looking at very early fall. We’re going to do an announcement soon.”

The appearance of Aykroyd and Belushi for the first time last summer was a moment advocates for the project had wanted since it got started in 2018. The use of the Joliet Correctional Center in “The Blues Brothers,” which starred Aykroyd and Belushi’s late brother, John Belushi, has wide recognition attracting visitors to the site.

Old Joliet Prison on Monday, April 24, 2023 in Joliet.

“The huge story [of 2022] was Blues Brothers Con,” Peerbolte said. “That was by far the biggest the biggest event of the year. I think it’s not only made the project look good, it made the city look good.”

Prison management is working on a reappearance by Aykroyd and Belushi as the city just last week approved a one-year extension for its lease with the state, which has allowed Joliet to reopen the old prison for tours and events such as Blues Brothers Con.

The prison last year drew 22,500 visitors for its March-to-November season.

About a third of the visitors came for self-guided tours.

“People, as we expected earlier, want to come in and look around. It’s that simple,” Peerbolte said.

A big development in 2023 will be $6.5 million in renovations funded by state and federal grants. The money will be spent on the two cellblocks, the administration building, the hospital and the chapel.

“The goal is to stop the bleeding,” Peerbolte said, noting the advanced state of deterioration at the buildings.

Old Joliet Prison on Monday, April 24, 2023 in Joliet.

The prison was shut down by the state in 2002, and little if anything was done to maintain the property until a five-year lease in December 2017 gave access to the city of Joliet.

The short-term extension of the original lease does not reflect reluctance on either side to continue the arrangement, Deputy City Attorney Chris Regis said.

“Right now, we’re negotiating it for a longer term,” Regis said. “There was never any unwillingness on their part.”

He said changes in state personnel responsible for negotiations made it difficult to get a long-term deal done before the original lease expired.

“They’re impressed with the program we put together,” Regis said. “They’ve been very complimentary toward both the city and the museum.”