Parks Move Ahead with Improvements
Private campgrounds and RV resorts are collectively moving ahead with plans to spend millions of dollars in capital improvement projects this year, despite the recession, according to private park operators and industry officials.
“The recession is temporary, and most campground and RV resort operators believe that it behooves them to move forward with their improvement plans if they want to remain competitive with other travel and tourism options,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
As a result, she stated in a news release, many private park operators are investing in new facilities and amenities this year, which include everything from cabins and yurts to miniature golf courses, skate parks and waterslides.
The push by private park operators to improve their facilities has been going on for many years. In fact, three-quarters of private park owners made an average of $147,508 in improvements to their parks in 2007, according to a national survey by the Arizona Hospitality Research & Resource Center at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Profaizer cautioned that not every park is investing in capital improvements this year, and some may hold until later this year until they get a better sense of where the economy is going. However, there are numerous examples of parks across the country that are making substantial investments in improvements and, in some cases, expansions.
ARVC Survey Results
Chains Spending Millions
Resort chains, for their part, are also moving ahead with expansion plans, including Chicago-based Equity LifeStyle Properties, which spent more than $13 million in improvements to its 170 RV resorts last year. Last year’s improvements included construction of a 1950s-style diner, pool improvements, a fitness center and activity bus at Paradise RV Resort in Sun City, Ariz.; $100,000 worth of new pool decking, bathroom, clubhouse furniture improvements and signage at Royal Coachman Resort in Sarasota, Fla.; $162,000 in pool area and bathroom improvements at Breezy Hill RV Resort near Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; $165,000 worth of upgrades to bathrooms, laundry facilities and roads at Fun N Sun RV Resort in San Benito, Texas; and $100,000 on pool renovations at Goose Creek RV Resort on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast.
“We expect to continue to demonstrate to our customers that we care about our properties by investing in them,” said Ellen Kelleher, ELS’s executive vice president of property management, adding that ELS will spend millions of dollars again in improvements this year.
This year’s improvements at ELS parks include $2 million in upgrades to its Thousand Trails campgrounds for interior roadway improvements, new electrical hookups, new kayaks, paddleboats, picnic tables and barbecue grills. Other ELS projects include new fitness centers and pool area upgrades at Sunshine Key RV Resort and Marina in Big Pine Key, Fla., and clubhouse renovations at Crystal Isle RV Resort in Crystal River, Fla.
Other RV resort companies making improvements this year include Salt Springs, Fla.-based Elite Resorts of America, which is overseeing $1.2 million in proposed renovation work at Ocala Sun RV Resort in Ocala, $300,000 worth of improvements at Desert Gardens RV Oasis in Florence, Ariz., and roughly $500,000 worth of improvements at Palm Lake RV Resort in Foley, Ala., according to Ed Mayer, president of Elite Resorts, which is managing these properties on behalf of a Philadelphia-based investment group.
Elite Resorts is also planning to invest $200,000 in improvements at its namesake parks in Salt Springs, Clermont and Crystal River, Mayer said.
Of course, not every park is spending money in facility or amenity improvements right now. Some, in fact, have not been able to move forward with their expansion or improvement plans because of difficulties obtaining loans. But that’s doesn’t always stop them.
The Jellystone Park in Cobb, Calif., north of Napa Valley, was planning to spend half a million dollars on a miniature golf course when its lender stopped issuing loans after the golf course was 75% completed. But that didn’t stop park owner Brian Barnhart. He negotiated a deal with the golf course builder that allowed him to finish the golf course himself.
“This is looking like it’s going to be a very good year for our campground business,” Barnhart said, adding, “I think we’re going to do a lot better than last year.”