For the better part of three decades, the Putt Putt miniature golf course was the place for neighborhood kids in Elk Grove Village to spend summer nights passing the time.
Now, it'll be where children spend their days studying, inside a Christian school expanding from its existing location next door.
Sterling Education, which operates 38 private schools across North America and the Caribbean, including the one at 404 E. Devon Ave. in Elk Grove Village, has purchased and is now making renovations to a two-story building that once housed the mini golf course's offices. Officials there didn't respond to a request for comment.
Putt Putt operated three 18-hole mini courses at 408 E. Devon Ave. for 30 years until it closed in 2006. The family of the former owners tried to sell the property to other commercial users for a higher price, but say they were restricted to what village officials would permit on the site.
"It's hard to drive by and see the changes because that was part of my whole life," said Debbie Davis, who grew up working at the mini golf course her parents Robert and Shirley Swiglo started. "It's hard to let go, but you have to."
The Swiglos were among the first residents to move to Elk Grove Village in 1956. It was Robert's idea to open a mini golf course, along with offering go-karts and batting cages, but as a Putt Putt franchise, only golf was allowed, Davis recalls.
Davis said when the course first opened, there wasn't much for kids or families to do in Elk Grove, but that changed over time and eventually played a role in the family's decision to close.
"It boils down to families had so much to do," Davis said. "It was almost like they didn't have time to play miniature golf anymore."
After the passing of Robert and Shirley, the family put the property on the market. The couple previously sold property they owned on both sides of Putt Putt -- what is now Krispy Kreme to the east and Sterling's school to the west (formerly, a union hall).
Alan Swiglo, trustee of his brother Robert's estate, agreed to sell to Sterling a year ago, after trying to sell or rent to transportation-related businesses with an eye toward vehicle storage.
"We could've sold that property many times if we would've been allowed to park limos, trucks or small cars, but (the village) was very adamant in their zoning requirements," Swiglo said.
Assistant Village Manager Maggie Jablonski said long-term truck storage isn't allowed anywhere in Elk Grove, no matter the zoning district, unless it's related to storing a business' own vehicles. Sterling school and the former Putt Putt are located in two different zoning districts, but their operations are allowed in both, she added.
Sterling, established in 2004 by the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church to coordinate a system of private schools, currently educates 1,200 elementary, middle and high school students in grades 3-12 at its schools.