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New KOA Campground a ‘Destination’ Park

August 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

When a small group of investors came together to build a campground on property in Yankton, S.D., owned by the National Field Archery Association (NFAA), they decided to make it a first-class facility.

“The group of us decided that, if we were going to do it, we were going to do it nice,” Dale James, one of the investors, told the Yankton Press & Dakotan. “There are going to be a lot of activities — way more than most campgrounds. You won’t just go to camp there.”

The owners anticipate that the Yankton/Missouri River KOA, located at 807 Bill Baggs Road, will quietly open by the end of next week. A more official opening will occur in mid-August when a couple of archery tournaments will bring an influx of people to the area.

It will have 90 campsites, including pads for campers, four small cabins and six lodges.

The 20-acre site will also include facilities for basketball, sand volleyball, croquet, badminton, miniature golf and horseshoes. Additionally, it will have playground equipment, a swimming pool with a slide, a recreational area for dogs and a jumping pillow that can hold approximately 75 people at once.

Bruce Cull, president of the NFAA, which is an investor in the development, and James could be found bouncing around on the large jumping pillow during a recent muggy afternoon.

“Talk about a cardio exercise!” Cull said as he hopped off the pillow. “I was on there for a minute, and I’m breathing harder than if I had run for 10 miles. It’s crazy.”

Cull said the idea was to make the KOA facility a “destination campground.”

“It’s such a cool project,” he said. “All the things we’re going to have for campers is incredible. We’ve got pretty much everything to make it a real destination.”

In addition to the previously-mentioned amenities, Cull points out that a building at the site will house showers, bathrooms, a convenience store, an arcade room and a video lottery area. A pavilion will also be used to hold activities.

On the NFAA grounds adjacent to the campground, there are four 28-target field archery courses, a trap range, a tennis court, and a pond for fishing.

The project will represent an investment of more than $2 million, Cull said.

“The whole idea is to bring more people to town,” he stated.

James added, “Look at the money these campers are going to spend in town. They’ve got to buy fuel, food and will also spend money on recreational opportunities.”

A manager will live in a lodge on the campground, and it is expected to be open annually from March through December.

Cull believes hunters will be among those who use it during the traditional camping off-season.

“The operation is set up so it can run in harsh winters,” Cull said. “The intent is to be open as long as we can profitably do so. The bottom line right now is to keep our heads above water financially. We’ve got a big investment here.”

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Texas RV Resort Planned Near Tiger Refuge

July 19, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

One of the tigers at Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge

One of the tigers at Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge

Bud Surles’ Signature Resorts has announced a completed master plan for Tiger Creek Resort, located in Tyler, Texas.

Tiger Creek Resort is an enterprise developed in conjunction with the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge, a non-profit organization in tiger conservation, education, big cat rescue and rehabilitation. The new resort will sell RV memberships and cottage timeshares, rent RV sites and cottages and rent event facilities at the resort, according to a news release.

Amenities include a swimming pool, a small lake and dock, a camper service building with a gift shop, a playground and two outdoor pavilions. “I have had the privilege of working with many unique ideas in my career, but this one stands to be one of the most exciting,” said Surles, reminiscing his 30 years of park development and design.

Brian and Lisa Werner, owners of Tiger Creek Resort, are well respected in the business community, and the Tyler community. Brian Werner has experienced substantial success in the start-up of several organizations and Lisa Werner brings a wealth of marketing experience that will only enhance their combined ability to succeed in this new venture.

“This development is really about bringing people and animals together through a nature-based tourist attraction that also provides sustainability for the big cats of Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge. Basically we plan to offer a ‘living resort’  with an ‘exotic experience,'” said Brian Werner.

Surles’ Signature Resorts, www.budsurles.com, provides award-winning services for corporations, public agencies, and individuals in consulting resort design, master planning for resorts and RV parks, Greenfield land development, site consultations, and leading seminars in the resort and RV industries. With over 30 years experience, Surles has won national recognition for his management, development and leadership accomplishments and offers knowledge and expertise in developing resorts across the nation.

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Large RV Park Sprouts from Ontario Farmland

July 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

IPMwebbar A huge, 2,300-site RV park is taking shape in St. Thomas-Elgin, Ontario, and for anyone  planning to bring a recreational vehicle to the 2010 International Plowing Match (IPM) in  September, Linda Young is your go-to person, The Chronicle reports.

She has taken up the job of turning 116 acres on Highway 3, near the St. Thomas Municipal Airport, 100 miles east of Detroit, into an RV park to accommodate visitors coming to St. Thomas-Elgin for the festival starting Sept. 21.

She was approached three years ago by the 2010 IPM committee to plan parking for RVs. As Young and others observed at previous plowing matches, travelling in an RV is a preference for many visitors.

In total, she noted, there will be 2,300 sites — 2,156 served with water and electrical hook-ups.

That leaves about 200 unserviced lots for those interested in camping, she added.

Young said the site will be designed to hold a large entertainment stage in the middle, as well as a small general store.

“The entertainment will be mostly local,” she said.

Young, working with a map of the park in her home, is busy booking sites by the day.

Two types will be offered, one measuring 25 by 40 feet and the other, 30 by45 feet. Young said the trailer park will be adjacent to what will be known as the tented city, where most of the IPM activity takes place.

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Showdown Looms for Popular California RV Park

July 9, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Aerial view of Lawson's Landing, Marin County, Calif.

Aerial view of Lawson's Landing, Marin County, Calif.

California state officials joined the battle for Lawson’s Landing on Thursday (July 8), as the California Coastal Commission toured the 940-acre site at Dillon Beach, home to the largest stretch of sand dune habitat in private ownership on the coast — as well as the region’s biggest coastal campground and trailer park.

Commissioners appeared at the sprawling complex for a whirlwind, 90-minute visit, arriving two hours late after a bus scheduling mix-up forced them to carpool from Santa Rosa, where they were meeting, to the blue-collar Pacific beach resort on the lip of Tomales Bay, the Marin Independent Journal reported.

They were greeted by about two dozen environmental activists and campground advocates who tagged along as Charles Lester, senior deputy director, and John Dixon, a staff ecologist, talked about the land, its history and a master plan of improvements approved by the county.

After a commission edict in 2006, Marin officials curbed the campground operation in 2008, cutting camping space in half. Partisans on both sides of the fight are now girding for a showdown before the commission that could come as early as next month when the panel meets in San Luis Obispo.

Dixon gave a wide-ranging overview of the area’s sensitive sand dune and wetlands habitat, home to endangered red-legged frogs and snowy plovers along with meadows “chock-a-block full of native wetland plants.”

Commissioner Ross Mirkarimi, a San Francisco supervisor who had visited the area before, asked the staff to provide reports on the demographics of those who come to the resort, as well as determine how many of 213 trailer sites existed in 1965, before the Coastal Act was approved. “The math is important,” he said.

“We have a natural collision of a pre-Coastal Act practice with a modern-day assessment,” Mirkarimi said in an interview.

Other commissioners had little to say of substance, with several merely indicating the area was unique and the field trip educational. “I don’t have enough information to lean one way or the other,” said Commissioner Sara Wan of Malibu, noting commission staff has not yet filed an analysis of the issues.

A commission attorney warned those joining the tour that the event was not a public hearing and that no public testimony could be taken. The Lawson’s Landing plan has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Earlier, two campground advocates rose at open time as the commission convened in Santa Rosa. “This is the only public campground in Marin County available to low- and moderate-income families,” said Cindy Whitley of Dillon Beach.

Mike Lawson, whose great uncle and aunt, Howard and Winifred Lawson, launched a pier operation in 1929 and later joined with family members in buying land, said he advised advocates “who could have been here by the busload” to stay away, because the commission had a busy agenda and it was not a time for public testimony.

Generations of blue-collar Californians have fled the heat of the Sacramento Valley and flocked to the area to fish, swim and frolic since the Depression. The complex developed without permits into an affordable coastal recreational oasis sporting rows of old aluminum trailers and an expansive meadow that hosts a summer-time surge of recreational vehicles and tent camps.

But environmentalists have sounded the alarm for years in a county otherwise noted for strict building rules, saying the operation tramples sensitive dune and wetlands habitat, wildlife and plants.

A county master plan seeks to protect sensitive areas while maintaining public access to the coast and providing a profitable business for owners Lawson and Carl Vogler. The plan calls for a new septic system, a new store and gateway improvements. It eliminates use of wetlands and reduces camp areas near wetlands from 57 acres to 16 acres.

The county board eased several regulations imposed by planners, saying campers could use sensitive “buffer” areas near wetlands for five years, rather than only three. At the time, Lawson’s attorney, former Coastal Commissioner Gary Giacomini, argued for 10 years, saying the campground could sell a conservation easement eliminating camping in the buffer area altogether — and get money to proceed with improvements. Because camping in the buffer areas can produce income of about $500,000 a year, a 10-year easement could be marketed for “real money,” Giacomini noted then.

Another opportunity for the campground to raise money is under consideration by Caltrans, which is weighing acquisition of a conservation easement at sites including Lawson’s to make up for loss of habitat for the red-legged frog during planned freeway improvements through the Novato Narrows.

As it stands, the county plan under review by the state commission allows 513 camping plots, including 213 travel trailer sites, as well as a limited but undetermined number of sites in an upland area. Currently, the campground has 1,233 camping sites. The county also limited trailer owners, who pay rent of $400 a month, to three months of occupancy a year. The area is not zoned for residential use, and county officials said occupancy rules boost tenant turnover and thus public access to the area.

Both trailer owners and environmentalists appealed to the commission.

Timothy Kassouni, representing trailer owners, said Thursday his clients take issue with regulations including the 90-day occupancy rule. Lester, the commission staff deputy, noted the panel could make occupancy regulations even tougher by imposing limits on tenancy during peak summer use.

The issue, Lester added, boils down to “Is it consistent with the Coastal Act?”

Catherine Caufield, a member of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, said the county plan is at odds with coastal regulations in a number of respects, including failure to protect wetlands and buffer zones.

Co-owner Lawson hopes the commission will allow him to continue operating a resort that has been part of the landscape for almost a century, but worries that piling on restrictions “will only lead to our business failure,” as he told county supervisors two years ago when flanked by consultants, including Rusty Areias, a former state parks director and former Coastal Commission chairman.

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FEMA Trailers for Austin Homeless RV Park

June 22, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Click here to watch a video on this project.

Austin, Texas, could soon create an RV park that houses hundreds of homeless people. The land sits near the airport. It was found unfit to live in because of the noise from airplanes taking off and landing, according to KXAN-TV, Austin.

“We’re now asking the FAA can we use this land for a homeless RV park the sight is ideal because it is not adjacent to a neighborhood and closely connected to mass transit,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez.

However, some are against the proposal saying it could hurt the city. A similar proposal, at a different location, was rejected by the council two years ago.

“I feel like it will promote more homeless people to come to Austin which I wouldn’t prefer,” said Brenna Sura, an Austin resident.

Still, proponents of the homeless RV park say the city has to do something and soon.

“There’s not enough beds each night in the current shelters and there’s not enough affordable housing,” said Martinez.

Mobile Loaves and Fishes would fund the project through private donations and is purchasing some of the FEMA trailers used after Hurricane Katrina.

“The proposal is about 100 trailers and then about 50 fixed cottages,” said Martinez.

Karl James has been homeless the last year and is all for the idea but against the location.

“A lot of people won’t give us bus passes; it’s far to walk out there especially in the day heat of summer,” said James.

The city of Austin owns the land and would lease it to the non-profit organization but would not allow children to live there due to safety concerns. They will also have to consider security, whether to allow alcohol on site and possible surveillance cameras and is just in the early planning phases.

The resolution is expected to pass the city council Thursday.

“It just asks staff to determine whether or not we can use this site,” said Martinez. “We’re not trying to create five star living conditions we are literally trying to get them off of the street.”

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Florida RV Park Developer Sued for Foreclosure

May 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The site plan for Golden Palms Motorcoach Estates

The site plan for Golden Palms Motorcoach Estates

A luxury motorcoach development in east Lee County, Fla., is being sued for foreclosure by its lender for $7.8 million, according to The News-Press, Fort Myers.

First American Bank filed the lawsuit Monday (May 24) in Lee Circuit Court against Golden Palms Motorcoach Estates and its developer, Harp Development.

The 54-acre Lehigh Acres project built around a 22-acre lake was started in 2007 and is still under construction, said sales manager Richard O’Connell, who said Tuesday he wasn’t aware a foreclosure had been filed.

Construction was delayed for six months when county officials said the “casitas” – small houses on each lot – had to be slightly smaller than planned. “We had to go back to square one.”

Still, O’Connell said, Harp has five or six Golden Palms units under contract.

Harp is also the developer of Cypress Woods RV Resort off Luckett Road near Interstate 75.

According to the bank’s lawsuit, Golden Palms of Lee County LLC borrowed the money in a note and a revolving line of credit in April 2007 but is now in default on both.

When complete, Golden Palms will have 97 lots – 75 of them lakefront. The lots are 55 by 110 feet, according to the project’s website.

Golden Palms of Lee County bought the property in May 2005 for $956,052 from Willow Point of Lee County Inc., according to county court records

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High-End Park Models Planned for Texas Resort

May 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Guadalupe River RV Resort plans to purchase a 15-acre tract of land in Kerrville, Texas, as part of its campground expansion effort.

The $3.2 million expansion could take place either later this year or early 2011, according to the San Antonio Business Journal.

“The expansion will be nothing but high-end park model cabins,” says Bob Temple, who is the managing partner of the investor group that owns the park. “It will be a gated community and will have its own clubhouse and pool.”

Five years ago, Temple and his partners bought RV resort property in Kerrville and invested in $450,000 worth of improvements.

These improvements included building an amphitheater and concert stage by the river. The upgrades also included installing new plumbing and electrical services for more than half of the campsites. The investors also obtained a license to sell beer, wine and liquor at the campground and set up the camp to host rock and country concerts. The park has concerts planned this year for Memorial Day Weekend, Fourth of July Weekend and Labor Day Weekend.

“The previous owner is a nice guy, but he had not employed sufficient staff to maintain the property or bring out its natural beauty,” Temple says. “The grass was 5feet high all the way to the river.”

The current expansion plan comes on the heels of the RV resort earning two top ratings from prominent campground industry organizations.

The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) named the Guadalupe River RV Resort its “Park of the Year.” The Kerrville resort also earned two 5W ratings from Woodall’s North American Campground Directory.

The park has been recognized for excellence in operations, customer service reviews, park promotions, management skills, employee training and community service. The park has also been recognized for having quality RV and recreational facilities.

“This tells me that people are noticing that we’re actually doing our job,” says Temple.

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Old Glory and Maple Leaf Fly at Florida Resort

March 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Entrance to Aztec RV Resort in South Florida

Entrance to Aztec RV Resort in South Florida.

A property in South Florida once occupied by the working poor could soon become home to the mega-wealthy on wheels.

In September, Margate is expected to become the first city on Florida’s east coast with an upscale RV park. Until it closed in 2007, Aztec Estates mobile home community filled the 104-acre site on the east side of State Road 7 and south of Southgate Boulevard, according to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

The Broward County Commission has unanimously approved a needed rezoning. If state and city officials also sign off on the deal as expected, developers hope to fill the new Aztec RV Resort with rich Snow Birds enjoying a nine-hole golf course, a forested backdrop and a scenic canal. They will live aboard luxurious motorcoaches that cost more than $200,000, on lots starting at $108,000. About a quarter of the park’s RVs are expected to cost more than $1 million.

“These are the ones rock stars use when they tour,” Margate Vice Mayor Frank Talerico said. “It’s not a camping park -– it’s pretty high-end. People with a lot of discretionary income have these things.”

About 20% of the park’s 646 lots have been sold — all to buyers, mainly Canadians, who paid with cash, said sales manager Jean-Francois Leblanc.

After the Aztec mobile home park closed, the property was rezoned to accommodate a development with 707 single-family homes, townhouses and condos. After the housing market bust, that plan never materialized.

In March 2009 a group of nine Canadian investors bought the land for $17 million and dropped another $23 million on improvements including new sewers and water lines, more than 27,000 trees and other landscaping.

Aerial view of the Aztec RV Resort in Margate, Fla. Some 27,000 trees have been planted on the property since this photo was taken.

Aerial view of the Aztec RV Resort in Margate, Fla. Some 27,000 trees have been planted on the property since this photo was taken.

They used Pelican Lake Motorcoach Resort in Naples as a model. Salesmen tell clients the Margate resort will be even nicer, with tiki huts for picnics, a playground and shuffleboard court and optional upgrades such as fountains, outdoor kitchens, fire pits and roll-up screens for outdoor movies.

Sales brochures are printed in both French and English for the mostly French Canadian clientele they are trying to reach and both U.S. and Canadian flags fly at the State Road 7 entrance to the RV park.

Another attraction directed at Canadians will be a court for petanque — a sport resembling lawn bowling and bocce that’s very popular in France.

Frank Cannatelli, a Quebec businessman, bought five lots -– one for him and his wife to use in winter, the others to either rent for income or flip once the park is sold out.

“There’s nothing else like it,” he said. “The airport is close, the casino is close, the beach is close. There’s lots of things to do.”

Margate Mayor Joe Varsallone said he was impressed with the plans.

“The type of people that will be moving in are people who are very, very financially sound, no question about it,” he said. “There will be (property) tax revenue for the city of Margate and also revenue for stimulating the economy — these people are going to have to patronize the different businesses in Margate.”

Though final approvals are still pending, construction is well underway at the RV park. Decorative lanterns mark each lot and the security fence is nearly complete.

Chester Watson, a retired owner of used car lots from Montreal, spent Monday touring the park and said he is thinking about buying a lot to use in winter. “It’s going to be like five stars,” he said.

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Opposition Surfaces on Michigan RV Park Plan

March 5, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

American developers are still looking to launch motorcoach resorts in the wake of the Great Recession, according to WWTV/WWUP-TV, Cadillac, Mich. For example, a developer from Cheboygan Waterfront LLC thinks a piece of land in Cheboygan, Mich., would be the perfect place for a luxury motorcoach community.

But, not everyone is sharing his thoughts.

Some people who live nearby say they don’t want to see the proposed project move forward.

The developer, Todd Wyett, wants to include more than 100 units for people to purchase to live six months of the year.

In order to do that, he would have to fill in  3 3/4 acres of wetland on the property.

He says in doing so, he says he would be required to compensate for those wetlands by creating new wetland areas elsewhere.

A neighbor to the property says she doesn’t think it’s right to mess with nature.

She also says she doesn’t want this development right next door.

Wyett believes the proposed $10 million development would be a large asset to Cheboygan’s economy.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment and the Army Corps of Engineers will have the final say whether or not the project can move forward.

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Motorcoach Lot Sales Popular Along the Gulf

March 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Heritage Motor Coach Resort and Marina along the Gulf Coast

Heritage Motor Coach Resort and Marina in Orange Beach., along the Gulf Coast

Steve and Page Jones of Pensacola, Fla., bought a lot for their 40-foot recreational vehicle in Bella Terra of Gulf Shores in Alabama, both as an investment and for a fun place to visit, according to the Press-Register, Mobile, Ala.

“We’re renting it out year-round,” Jones said.

Rick and Lori Cole of La Crosse, Wis., used to drive their 41-foot motorcoach to Naples, Fla., where they rented a space, but the 50-something retirees also bought in Bella Terra, and said they enjoy it so much they’re building a cottage on the lot to accommodate guests.

“We like the people here,” Cole said, and the fact that the RV park is exclusively for Class A motorcoaches.

Luxury motorcoaches have been called upscale condominiums on wheels, and come at similar prices — ranging from $600,000 to $2 million, industry experts said. Increasingly, the resorts and parks that serve them are selling campsites, then renting them out for the site owners, according to the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

Land, design and building costs make it tough to develop a new resort park for rentals only, according to park owners.

“Our market is stronger than the condo market,” said Mike Miller, who with his son, Matt, manages Heritage Motor Coach Resort and Marina on Bayou St. John in Orange Beach, Ala., which opened last November.

Almost half of Heritage’s 79 RV lots are sold, he said. Prices range from $169,900 to $419,900.

Most buyers in the local motorcoach resorts hail from the same states that send condo buyers to the Gulf, areas including Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky. Renters include Snow Birds, according to industry experts.

“We’re getting a lot of people who used to go to Tampa and Naples,” Miller said. “It’s a shorter distance, and they like the area.”

Miller said it isn’t unusual for his owners to purchase sites in other cities, then travel from place to place.

Bella Terra, which is on the Foley Beach Express, sold eight RV lots over Mardi Gras weekend, according to Chuck Smith, a partner in the development. The 40-acre park, which opened in late now has owners for 79 of its 87 lots, and is developing another 24. There will be a total of 176 lots when the park is complete.

Prices range from $95,000 to $155,000, depending on whether the lot fronts the 10-acre lake.

“This is not a retirement community, it’s a resort,” Smith said. “A lot of motorcoach owners have kids or are newly retired. They see this as their country club, and we run it as a resort.”

Newer parks typically have amenities similar to those at Bella Terra — a 6,000-square-foot clubhouse with a kitchen, flat-screen TVs, movie theater, gym and sauna. Outdoor perks include an infinity pool, Jacuzzi, putting greens and lush landscaping and gazebos around the lake.

Rentals have been good — 60% during February, with 80% occupancy during the run-up to Mardi Gras, according to Smith. The January rentals were at 55% compared to 17% in January 2009, he said.

The Coles have owned Class A coaches since 1983 and say they enjoy a lifestyle that lets them park, open their house to guests and start socializing.

“It’s a traveling cocktail party,” he said

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5K Campsites Planned Near Bristol Speedway

February 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The owner of Cedars Golf Course announced a project Thursday (Feb. 25) to gradually turn the Volunteer Parkway facility into a massive camping, parking, hotel and retail complex that would work in tandem with the nearby Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn.

Bob Slagle, owner of Cedars Golf Course, said the project – called Bristol’s Thunder Mountain – would be built on 469 acres over a five-year period. He said it would create some 10,000 new parking spots and 5,000 camping spaces near the speedway – greatly easing traffic pressure during the two annual NASCAR race weekends – and also produce more hotel rooms for spectators and tourists, according to tricities.com.

“It would be a huge benefit for the city and the speedway,” Slagle said. “I will have partners involved in this project, and it would be done in a gradual, organized way. But I’m excited about what this could mean for this area. And I believe we can get the city and speedway to work with us.”

Slagle said his company, Thunder Mountain LLC, was still developing an engineering and design plan for the entire project. But he said he was already prepared to invest $2 million to $3 million in the project’s first phase – creating the camping and parking spaces – once Bristol and BMS had agreed to support it.

“I haven’t ruled out starting work sometime this year, if we can get everyone on board,” Slagle said.

While Slagle suggested he was hoping to attract a specific hotel chain, he wouldn’t name it. He also did not offer specifics on possible partners in the project.

Reaction from BMS and Bristol officials Thursday ranged from intrigued to puzzled.

BMS spokesman Kevin Triplett said Thursday that while the speedway hadn’t seen Slagle’s specific plans, it has an open mind about the Thunder Mountain project.

“It’s certainly an interesting concept,” Triplett said. “We’re aware of how our facility can allow lots of other economic opportunities to develop around us.”

Triplett said new camping and parking areas near BMS could greatly help the speedway, if they were well-designed and offered easy access for race fans. And, Triplett said, the possibility of more nearby hotel rooms might also appeal to BMS, which competes for spectators and dollars with NASCAR tracks in bigger cities, such as Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta and Phoenix.

“Anytime our business can benefit a surrounding business, which in turn can help us, it’s potentially something to look into,” Triplett said.

Bristol Deputy City Manager Michael Sparks said the city hasn’t held any discussions with Slagle about his project. “This is pretty much news to us,” Sparks said. “We haven’t seen his plan at all or heard anything about it.”

Sparks said another developer had briefly approached the city about a possible Cedars Golf project, but those talks took place more than a year ago.

“I can’t even tell you if that project was anything similar to what Mr. Slagle wants to do,” Sparks said. “Because we didn’t have any [advance] word on what he’s looking to do.”

Slagle said that under his plan, the Cedars Golf course would keep operating for the near future – but would gradually be closed down and phased out as the Thunder Mountain project expanded.

“We could start working now and our golfers wouldn’t even know it,” Slagle said, noting that the course is on 130 acres, less than one-third of his full property.

“Believe me, golfers will be able to golf here for a bit,” Slagle said.

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Snow Birds Opting to Buy, Not Renting, RV Sites

February 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Mogens Hermansen is what you’d call a working Snow Bird.

He lives in Memphis, Tenn., but spends much of the winter enjoying the sunshine in southern Alabama.

But unlike most Snow Birds, Hermansen and his wife don’t have to worry about trying to reserve a site for their 45-foot Beaver motorhome. They own an RV site at Bella Terra RV Resort in Foley, Ala. (Learn about Bella Terra RV Resort in today’s Featured Video.)

“It’s our home away from home,” said Hermanson, 59, a full-time operations manager for a global packaging company.

In fact, their RV site at Bella Terra is not their only home away from home. The Hermansens also own a site at Traverse Bay RV Resort in Acme, Mich., where they like to enjoy the summer months.

The Hermansens are part of a growing number of RVers who are purchasing RV sites at upscale RV resorts across the country, according to a news release.

“This segment of the industry is generating increasing attention from consumers,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) in Larkspur, Colo.

While most campgrounds, RV parks and resorts rent their sites by the night, week or month, there are growing numbers of parks that have started selling their sites, particularly Sunbelt parks that cater to Snow Birds.

Nationally, more than 25,000 RV sites at nearly 200 RV parks and resorts are privately owned, according to David Gorin, a longtime campground industry consultant and principal of MacLean, Va.-based David Gorin & Associates.

That’s still a fraction of the market, when one considers that there are more than 8,000 private campgrounds and RV parks nationwide. But it is a significant trend, and an attractive investment option for working professionals, empty nesters and retirees who want to spend all or part of the winter in the Sunbelt, said Gorin, who also owns Holiday Cove RV Resort in Cortez, Fla., which offers RV sites for sale.

While prices for RV sites vary from roughly $50,000 to $250,000 or more, depending on the park’s location and amenities, the numbers make sense for Snow Birds who plan to spend extended periods of time in the Sunbelt.

“If someone comes down and spends $3,000 or $4,000 a year every winter in Florida, and let’s say they come down five years, they have already invested $20,000 in Florida,” said Eduard Mayer, president and CEO of Elite Resorts Management Inc., which has developed several RV resorts in Florida that sell their sites. On the other hand, many consumers do not want to commit themselves to a single location, which is why most people rent RV sites, Profaizer said.

Most RV resorts that sell their sites also set up rental pools, which enable RV site owners to generate income from their campsite when they’re away. The resorts take a percentage of the rental income to cover their management services.

The economics of modern RV resort development are also leading growing numbers of private park developers to build upscale resorts that sell their sites. “When you consider the cost of land in attractive locations, the cost of design, engineering, permitting and construction costs, it’s almost impossible to justify building a new park for a rental market only,” Gorin said.

And while the downturn in the economy has taken a toll on RV site sales, some RVers have found that they can purchase RV sites through their Individual Investment Accounts (IRAs) and 401K plans, said Tripp Keber, COO of Bella Terra Resort, which recently announced plans to begin building its second phase. “With the income that can be realized through our rental management program and the lot’s appreciation, this represents a great investment,” Keber said.

Many RV enthusiasts also like the upscale nature of RV parks and resorts that sell their sites as well as the convenience of owning their own site.

“The advantage of owning our own site is we can come and go as we please,” said Emile LaChance, an Ontario, Canada, resident who recently purchased a site at Silver Palms RV Village in Okeechobee, Fla. “If you’re renting a site,” he added, “you’ve got to be on a schedule.”

Looking to the future, Gorin said the concept of owning an RV site will continue to grow in popularity, especially in highly attractive vacation destinations and in resort locations within a two-hour drive of major cities. Gorin added that the development of new, upscale RV parks and resorts that sell their sites will also create a new supply of modern RV sites for the rental market.

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Bella Terra Resort Adding 88 Lots in Phase 2

February 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Infinity edge pool at Bella Terra resort in Gulf Shores, Ala.

The pool at Bella Terra RV Resort in Gulf Shores, Ala.

Representatives from Bella Terra RV Resort announced today (Feb. 10) the launch of Phase Two of their Gulf Shores, Ala., development.

Despite concerns of the real estate market, the resort has experienced growing demand – with over 1,300 unique guest stays and a 95% positive customer satisfaction rating during the first year of operation, according to a news release.

Since completing Phase One of the resort in November 2008, Bella Terra has sold almost 90% of its initial 88 lots. Consumer demand continues to propel Bella Terra forward, with the initial development of the second phase consisting of 25 additional premium lots. Once completed, Phase Two will add a total of 88 new lots bringing the total resort to 176 units.

“We have continued to successfully sell lots at a strong velocity despite the economic trends,” said Chuck Smith, president of Bella Terra Realty Holdings LLC. “This is a true testament to both our premium product and the value buyers place on exceptional service. As a result, what we’re finding is that demand amongst Class A RVers is driving sales and occupancy rates that are off the charts.”image001

Onsite rental occupancy has averaged over 50% during initial off-season months. The team expects occupancy to reach near capacity during the upcoming 2010 peak season. Today, Bella Terra is widely considered the top RV resort in the Southeast, earning the highest ratings from Woodalls, Good Sam Club, Trailer Life Directory and Wheelers RV Guide. Most recently, the resort was inducted into the “Best Parks of Amercia.”

“Consumers are experiencing tremendous value as a result of their purchases at Bella Terra in Gulf Shores,” said Tripp Keber, COO at Bella Terra Realty Holdings LLC. “We continue our commitment to building the ‘best of breed’ within the RV community, as we aggressively pursue new developments in 2010 to bolster our family of lifestyle resorts.”

Phase Two lots will begin selling at pre-construction pricing on Feb. 15. Lot prices range from $99,000 to $159,000 – representing over a 20% increase from Phase One pre-construction pricing levels. Special purchase incentives will be offered for a limited time during this pre-construction phase.

For more information on Bella Terra, visit www.BellaTerraRVResort.com or call (866) 417-2416.

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ARVC: High Qualify RV Parks Defy the Recession

December 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

arvc2.giARVC logofBetween 2000 and 2005, as real estate prices rocketed to unprecedented levels, developers pulled out their wallets and encouraged owners of RV parks and resorts to sell their properties because they wanted to replace them with shopping malls – all more lucrative uses of these properties, or so they thought.

As the real estate market has tumbled, however, many developers have not been able to get very far with their plans, and several of the RV parks and resorts they acquired have not only survived, but prospered during the current economic recession, according to a release from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

In fact, one lesson that developers have learned is that high quality RV parks and resorts are more economically resilient than hotels, shopping malls or condos, particularly when investments are made to improve these parks.

“Camping is a recession-proof business,” said David L. Berg, ARVC chairman, adding that most of the nation’s campgrounds, RV parks and RV resorts have reported stable to slight increases in income this year, despite the recession.

Berg cited his own campground as a case in point. The park, Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, scored an 8.5% increase in business compared to last year, while hotels and motels in his area saw their business drop by as much as 25%. “Camping is more family oriented and more reasonably priced than other travel and tourism options,” he said, adding, “The state of affairs of our economy has not hurt the camping business at all.”

Developers, on the other hand, have mistakenly assumed that land is always more valuable when it’s used for hotels, shopping malls and condominiums. While this kind of thinking may apply to poorly maintained RV parks, in resort destinations, high-quality RV parks and resorts remain economically resilient, even when times are tough.

Consider the story of Emerald Desert RV Resort in Palm Desert, Calif., one of the top winter vacation destinations in the country. Several years ago, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taylor Morrison bought the park with plans to replace it with high-end housing. But the recession pulled the rug out from under the real estate market before Taylor Morrison could finish its project. And while Taylor Morrison had converted portions of the RV resort to housing, the rest of the resort remained standing, including all of its RV sites, clubhouse and other core buildings, which prompted the company to put the RV resort back on the market.

La Jolla, Calif. based SunLand RV Resorts bought Emerald Desert last summer and plans to keep as a resort. “I’ve had my eye on this property for 20 years,” said Reza Paydar, SunLand president and CEO. “It is very valuable. There is nothing like it.”

SunLand, in fact, has already invested more than $1 million in improvements to the 251-site property and plans to operate it as a year-round luxury RV resort. It’s newly designed 1,200-square-foot lobby features a custom designed floor mosaic and reception desk with inlayed stone. Luxury furnishings are also being added to the newly designed fitness center and swimming pool area.

Meanwhile, the economic downturn has given La Pacifica RV Resort in the San Diego, Calif. suburb of San Ysidro a chance to assert its economic resiliency. An investor purchased the property several years ago with the idea of re-selling it to a housing developer. But as the real estate market tanked, the investor’s plans evaporated and he wound up selling the property to another investor, Bart Thomsen, who plans to make improvements and keep La Pacifica as an RV resort.

“The park is in very good condition already. But we’re absolutely intent on making it an even better place,” Thomsen said. “We’re putting money into fixing up the bathhouse and clubhouse and investing in better utility pedestals and making improvements to its streets. We’re planning on it being an RV park for the long haul.”

Developers’ plans to convert RV parks and resorts to other uses have not only been put on hold by the recession. In some cases, local residents and businesses and city officials have discouraged them from replacing RV parks and resorts, which they value as important pillars of a tourism economy.

Consider Holiday Cove RV Resort in Cortez, Fla. A few years ago, the property was purchased by an owner who wanted to replace it with condominiums, but the developer ran into opposition from local residents, businesses and city officials. “They claimed the plan was out of character for the community and they were concerned that residential use wouldn’t support the local businesses that are geared primarily to the tourist and vacation business,” said David Gorin, who recently purchased park from the developer. “The previous owner was simply unable to get the zoning and planning commission to approve his plan. He fought with them for five years and then gave up and sold the property to us.”

Gorin and his business partner have since invested $1.4 million improving the property and making it into a high quality RV resort.

These investments in RV parks and in RV park improvements are paying off because camping and RVing enthusiasts have shown a consistent willingness to pay for parks that offer high quality facilities, amenities and service, said Linda Profaizer, ARVC president and CEO. RV parks and resorts are also aided by the fact that they offer the nation’s most affordable vacation option, she said.

John Grant, owner of San Diego-based Park Brokerage Inc., said growing consumer interest in camping and RVing is also helping RV parks and resorts to retain their real estate and business value during the worst recession since the Great Depression. “RV parks are holding on to their value because people are downsizing their vacations, taking their RV or tent and going camping,” he said. “This translates into higher property and business values for parks.”

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Timid U.S. Lenders Stifle RV Park Development

December 14, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

 

Springs at Borrego resort

Springs at Borrego resort

As winter approaches, campsites quickly fill up at The Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course in eastern San Diego County, Calif.

The 90-site low desert resort, located minutes from the scenic grandeur of Anza Borrego State Park, is a popular winter nesting ground for Snow Birds from all over the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

“We would love to build another 110 sites and think we could do so for about $1.2 million,” said Dan Wright, the park’s general manager.

Trouble is, Wright can’t get a loan. “Everyone we have talked to tells us that financing for RV park construction and development is non-existent at this time,” said Wright, who also serves as president of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC).

The problem isn’t limited to RV parks and resorts. Despite the billions of dollars in bailout funds that the Bush and Obama administrations have provided to the banking industry during the past year to make credit more available, bank financing remains difficult for any small business to obtain, according to the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke acknowledged the problem last month in a widely quoted speech to the Economic Club of New York, in which he stated that banks’ continuing reluctance to lend is “limiting the ability of some businesses to expand and hire,” effectively delaying the nation’s economic recovery.

From Wright’s perspective, the banks’ unwillingness to lend to profitable businesses is costing millions in lost revenue, not only for his business, but for the community of Borrego Springs, whose restaurants, stores and fuel stations depend to varying degrees on the snowbirds who spend the winter at his RV resort.

“We track every reservation request that we cannot fill,” Wright said. “Since the beginning of 2008, we have turned away over 8,000 nights’ worth of business due to a shortage of campsites. But even with numbers like these, lenders still can’t bring themselves to provide us with a loan. It makes no sense.”

Ken Jeffries, one of the owners of Angels Camp RV & Camping Resort in Angels Camp, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, is facing a similar scenario. The park, with 63 RV sites, 14 tent sites, five cabins and a camp office and store, is in desperate need of expansion to accommodate growing numbers of camping enthusiasts. In fact, between Jan. 1 and July 29 of this year, the park had to decline 513 nightly reservations for lack of space, Jeffries said. But despite the obviously strong demand for campsites at the park, the owners have not been able to obtain even a relatively small loan.

“We need $50,000 to put in 19 more campsites, but the banks are real tight for some reason,” Jeffries said. “The interest rates are down, but they won’t loan any money. Of course, it doesn’t do any good to have low interest rates if they won’t loan the money. I feel the small business man is being squeezed terribly.”

Frustrated with the lack of credit, Jeffries and his partners are paying for his park’s expansion on their own. “We’re taking the money out of our own pocket and are doing the expansion ourselves,” he said. “It’s very difficult to do this, but we have no choice. We’re losing business by not expanding our park.”

Harriette Groth, co-owner of SunBasin RV Park in Ephrata, Wash., said she also is losing business because she has not been able to obtain the $350,000 to $450,000 in loans she needs to make needed improvements to her park. She’d like to put in more campsites, create more pull-through sites, and build a new bathhouse and showerhouse, but can’t find lenders willing to refinance her existing loan and provide her with capital for improvements, let alone provide her with a second loan for improvements. As a result, her improvements are limited to relatively minor cosmetic improvements, such as new signage and landscaping.

John Grant, owner of Park Brokerage Inc., a San Diego company that specializes in RV park sales, said the scarcity of loans is hard for RV park and campground operators to swallow, particularly given the resiliency of the camping business during the recession. “All businesses need access to capital to expand, to improve their facilities. But there’s just no commercial real estate capital available for RV parks and campgrounds,” he said.

Ed Mayer, who has developed four successful RV resorts in Florida in the past six years using the Elite Resorts of America brand name, said he is now seeking financing from private investment groups after failing to obtain loans from conventional lenders. “Everybody is scrambling to find money,” he said. “I’ve dealt with small banks, medium banks and large banks and I’m getting the same answer across the spectrum.”

Mayer said many lenders simply have no experience working with the RV industry and don’t want to take any chances investing in a market segment with which they have little or no experience, despite the financial successes RV parks and resorts have enjoyed throughout the recession. He conceded, however, that while there are many successful, high quality RV parks and resorts across the country that are worthy of loans, there also continue to be sizeable numbers of neglected parks. “Some RV parks are in the hands of people trying to get out of the industry and they’ve allowed their parks to deteriorate,” he said.

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