Elkhart County Officials Deny Hall of Fame Funding
Officials representing the RV/MH Hall of Fame met with the Elkhart (Ind.) County Redevelopment Commission Thursday (May 26), outlining a proposal seeking up to $860,295 in funding earmarked to develop an “outdoor event area” on open land to the east of the facility.
After hearing presentations from Hall of Fame Executive Director Tom McNulty and B.J. Thompson, a Mishawaka, Ind., advertising agency executive and veteran chairman of RVIA’s Public Relations Committee, the commission decided to deny the request while leaving the door open for resubmission, RVBUSINESS.com has reported.
“They voted to deny the request at this particular time due to an incomplete application,” Thompson told RVBUSINESS.com. “The commission was asking for a lot more information than what we had available. We were given some very good direction and guidance, and plan to resubmit our application. The commission did indicate that it wanted to help, but we don’t know to what extent.”
Mike Huber, president of the redevelopment commission, said that he did think there was support for the “basic components of the proposal.”
“The overall feeling was that the proposed project would bring in revenue to the county and there would be positive economic input,” he said. “But there was a lot of missing information, not enough specificity about the types of activities and details on the development itself. Members could see the potential, but we need more data to back up the investment.”
Huber said that the long-term viability of the hall also played into the commission’s decision. “I heard comments from commission members that the uncertain future of the hall did factor into the decision,” he said, adding, “We do support economic development and feel that the hall can be a long-term asset to the community, as long as future planning is well thought out and implemented in a professional manner.”
Thompson said the funding, generated through the Northeast Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District, would have been applied to the “first phase of a two-phase project.” Plans include sponsoring events such as trade and retail shows, car shows and company picnics. Infrastructure costs would include lighting, fixtures, fountains, landscaping and other improvements.
“Our vision was to develop an event area encompassing around 12 acres that would allow the hall to host more and larger events, and ultimately help ensure future sustainability,” he said. “The project would also enhance our viability as we continue fundraising efforts by increasing our potential net income.”
Since its inception, the hall, which is situated adjacent to the Indiana Toll Road, has been contracted to host events for various organizations, some non-RV related. In addition, Thor Industries Inc. recently announced plans to hold its RV Dealer Open House at the facility Sept. 20-22.
“Our hope was the have the project under way in time for the September meeting,” Thompson said. “But it appears that is not going to happen.”
The proposed development is just one part of a “multi-faceted rejuvenation for the hall,” according to Thompson. Faced with financial straits, hall officials have been actively soliciting donations while also working with the Go RVing Coalition to extend the association’s $200,000 annual sponsorship that has been in place for the past five years.
“Payment for the second quarter has been secured,” Thompson said. “The next quarter’s payment is contingent upon review by the Go RVing Coalition looking at overall operations and activity at the hall.”
Thompson noted that Go RVing Coalition receives a highly visible presence at the hall as a result of its sponsorship.
“They are guaranteed 30 seconds for every minute on the electronic sign, which means their message is seen by millions of eyeballs traveling along the Toll Road,” Thompson said. “Also, the hall continues to house videos, ads and informational computer kiosks for Go RVing.”
Fundraising efforts are ongoing and Thompson related “there is some positive activity,” including solicitations for major contributions from private donors. “I can’t comment at this time, but as soon as we have a solid commitment, we will make an announcement,” Thompson said.
He added, “Fundraising will continue to be a major part of the hall’s business plan. We will always need assistance from various sources, including generous contributions.”