Ore. RV Park Saved by Love of Recreation
The sour housing market in Bend, Ore., and a local developer’s taste for RV trips may have saved Bend’s premier RV park, according to the Bend Bulletin.
Once destined for the bulldozer, the Crown Villa RV Resort is doing a booming business this summer, owner Larry Kine said on July 19.
More than 130 RVs, ranging from classic Airstream trailers to units costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, packed the park every night last week during “The Rally” at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, Kine said. (The Rally was sponsored by Affinity Group Inc., publishers of Woodall’s Campground Management.) But even in normal weeks, the park has routinely filled to capacity, leading Kine – a land developer by trade – to fall in love with a new profession: RV park owner
“We just have a fantastic park there,” Kine said. “We didn’t realize what a fantastic park we had when we bought it, but we are hearing that Crown Villa is the best in the whole West Coast. We have a fantastic staff, the grounds are taken care of fantastically. I enjoy going places and RVing with my family, and I kind of feel like it would leave an economic hole in the community if we didn’t have an RV park here in Bend.”
Falling into the RV business involved a bit of a battlefield conversion, Kine admits. And, given the price that he and his partners paid for the land under the Crown Villa park, it may be a difficult conviction to keep.
Kine and his partners in Lava Ridge LLC bought the 20-acre park in late 2005 from longtime owner Kim Ward for $8.5 million. The intent at the time was clear – the housing market was red hot, and Kine and company contracted with a builder to buy the coveted land for a future subdivision.
Those plans ran into roadblocks at City Hall, where engineers and planners told the would-be developers that they would likely have to install more than $1.3 million worth of sewer line improvements in the general area if they expected to convert an RV park into a housing development, Kine said. Then, as the summer of 2006 wore on, the housing market lost its steam.
The contract with the builder is still in place, Kine said, but it appears to him that the builder is getting cold feet. Meanwhile, he said he and his partners have warmed to the idea of keeping the park running indefinitely, or even of opening new RV parks in Deschutes County, if they can convince the county or the city of Bend, or both, to open a spot in their planning rules to allow for them.
The business, Kine said, can be good.
The park has 106 regular spaces, he said, plus room for overflow. The nightly charges range from $40 to $60 during the peak summer months, with most running on the higher side. That’s not including fees for special services or allowances, like keeping pets or extra vehicles.
It takes 12 employees, including park manager Chris Mazzra, to keep things running during the peak summer months, with services that range from a full laundry to a kitchen, hot tub, tennis courts and a small putting green. But when it’s running full, as it pretty much does through July and August, it can generate more than $180,000 per month if every space goes for the top rate.
It also can funnel a strong flow of money into the community.
At Crown Villa, it’s not unusual for RVs filled with four or five golfers apiece to stop for a week or two while they sample the local courses and graze through the local restaurants, Kine said. Hikers, bikers, skiers and retirees who just stop to relax funnel hundreds of dollars a week apiece into restaurants, along with other stores, gas stations and service shops who work on their rigs.
Still, there’s that land cost hanging over everything. Debt service on the Crown Villa land is chewing up whatever profits the Crown Villa park makes, and then some, Kine said. Still, assuming the current deal with the builder doesn’t pan out, he said he and his partners are willing to continue to feed it – preferably with revenues they want to generate by starting more parks elsewhere in the county – until the land is paid off and the park’s revenue can be turned to profit.
“We like the business,” Kine said. “It’s a good business in the long term. Just not in the short term, when your land costs run so high.”
The only other large park within Bend’s city limits, the Scandia RV Park, has about 80 spaces, its manager said last summer. But in practical terms, only 20 to 30 spots are generally available for vacation travelers