Editor's Note: The final portion of the park model, cabin and yurt presentation in the February issue of Woodall's Campground Management appears below.
Athens Park Homes LLC
2013 Focus: Athens Park Homes is ramping up its park model construction across the country following its July 2012 acquisition by Troy, Mich.-based Champion Home Builders, which operates park model manufacturing facilities in Chandler, Ariz.; Weiser, Idaho; York, Neb.; Athens, Texas; Sangerfield, N.Y.; Lillington, N.C.; and Lake City, Fla. “Right now, pretty much all of the plants have built one or two models,” said Dick Grymonprez, Athens’ director of national park model sales. He said the variety of manufacturing plants across the country will help Athens offer more competitive prices to private park operators and consumers. “We had shipped to 37 states before the Champion acquisition,” he said. “But now we’re able to build the Athens Park brand closer to where the user is. We’re also able to buy materials at better prices because of Champion’s buying power, so we can build park models for less money.”
Background: Athens Park Homes was founded in September 2004 by a group of investors spearheaded by manufactured housing veteran Phil Surles, who was a former COO of Troy, Mich.-based Champion Enterprises, the parent company of Champion Home Builders.
Management: Phil Surles, president
Contact Information:3401 Corsicana St., Athens, TX 75751; (903) 677-0108; fax (903) 677-0118; www.athensparkhomes.com
Dutch Park Homes Inc.
2013 Focus: Dutch Park signed up several new dealers at the Louisville show and is expanding its reach across the country. “We think we have the best fit and finish and quality in the park model industry,” said sales manager Larry Weaver, adding that the company is continuing to make “fit and finish and quality” its focus areas in 2013 along with a stepped up marketing of its rental products to campgrounds.
Background: Dutch Park Homes was founded in 1999. Omer Kropf purchased the company in October 2003. The company recently relocated to a different manufacturing facility in Goshen, about a half-mile from its original plant.
Management: Kermit Kropf, president
Contact Information: 2249 Lincolnway East, Goshen, IN 46526; (574) 533-8090; fax (574) 533-8210; www.dutchpark.com
2013 Focus: Breckenridge is stepping up its production of rental units for the campground industry. “We’ve been a partner of KOA (Kampgrounds of America Inc.) and LSI (Leisure Systems, Inc.) and we’ve sold our share of rental products to those companies. We also do quite a bit of business with independent campgrounds,” said Bob Phillips, Breckenridge’s general manager. He said production of rental units for campgrounds is a good way to help private parks broaden their business base, while also introducing consumers to park models. “If we can get folks interested in going to campgrounds and spending time in rental units, some may make an investment in park models as a second home,” Phillips said. With this in mind, Breckenridge is continuing to develop even more luxurious interiors.
Background: Tim Howard founded Breckenridge on Sept. 23, 1991, as a stand-alone division of Damon Corp. with about eight to 10 employees, several of whom had worked with Howard at Mallard Coach Corp., another Nappanee park model company. Breckenridge continued to operate as a Damon division until Thor Industries acquired Damon in 2003. Howard retired Feb. 1, 2012. Bob Phillips, whom Howard hired as his first employee, now manages the company. “I was his director of engineering for 19 years,” Phillips said.
Management: Bob Phillips, general manager
Contact Information: 656 North Delaware, Nappanee, IN 46550; (574) 773-5353; fax (574) 773-2124; www.breckenridgefinerliving.com
Cavco Industries Inc.
2013 Focus: Cavco is continuing to position its product innovations with several soon-to-be-announced park model products that will be industry firsts. “I think innovation is what has kept Cavco in the game,” said Tim Gage, Cavco’s national vice president of park models, cabins and specialty products. “We’re being really innovative on working with the new developers of campgrounds or resorts, whether it’s on the East Coast or West Coast. We’re creating some awesome exteriors and concepts that keep us one step ahead. The interest continues from developers and campground owners with requests for larger volume weekend getaway cabins and cottages. People seem to be staying close to home and want above-average accommodations.”
Background: Cavco started producing park models in the early 1990s and began offering cabins and cottages in 2001. Cavco continues to be an industry leader and has continued to grow its market share and competitive edge by acquiring other companies, including Palm Harbor Homes, Fleetwood and Nationwide Homes, which provide Cavco with the ability to produce park models in every region of the country. Cavco currently produces park models in Phoenix and Goodyear, Ariz.; Seguin, Texas; Nampa, Idaho; Woodburn, Ore; Rocky Mount, Va.; Martinsville, Va.; Riverside, Calif.; Millersburg, Ore.; and Plant City, Fla.
Management: Tim Gage, national vice president of park models, cabins and specialty products
Contact Information: 1001 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004; Phone: 602-763-5488; fax (623) 882-2845; www.parkmodels.com, www.cavco.com and www.fleetwoodparkhomes.com
Chariot Eagle Inc.
2013 Focus: Chariot Eagle has introduced a series of 8½-foot-wide park models with slides that have proven to be very popular as rental models, said Joe Follman, the company’s sales manager. Chariot Eagle has also included even more optional items in their models as standard equipment, including marble windowsills, night stands with overhead cabinets above the bed, new extended drawer guides and space saver microwaves. Chariot Eagle has also expanded its usage of tape and textured residential finishes at new competitive prices in their 2013 models.
Background: Robert Holliday founded Chariot Eagle in June 1984 with five employees and subsequently built it into one of the larger park model manufacturers in the country, with manufacturing operations at its headquarters in Ocala, Fla., and at its sister plant, Chariot Eagle West, in Phoenix, Ariz., which it opened in 1995 to service the West Coast market. Both plants build the same types of products, although their floor plans vary and architectural styles vary to reflect regional architectural tastes in exterior design. Chariot Eagle specializes in customized park models and has developed more than 650 different floorplans.
Management: Robert Holliday, president
Contact Information: 931 NW 37th Ave., Ocala, FL 34475; (352) 629-7007; fax (352) 732-0026; www.charioteagle.com. For Chariot Eagle West, 8100 W. Buckeye Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85043; (623) 936-7545; fax (623) 936-7012; www.charioteaglewest.com
Fairmont Park Trailers
2013 Focus: Fairmont Homes’ Park Trailer division is stepping up its involvement in the park model rental business, having introduced a new rental unit at the ARVC Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo in November, which generated significant interest from private park operators. “This is our first concerted effort to get into the rental market,” said John Soard, Fairmont Homes’ general manager. “We’ve got the ability to do higher volume building so we can be more efficient for dealers and campgrounds with rental products.”
Background: John Soard spent 20 years with Breckenridge and Woodland Park before joining Fairmont Homes in 2005 to run the company’s park trailer division. Fairmont Homes had been in the park model business back in the late ’80s and early ’90s and exited the market in 1994 to focus mainly on housing. But the company re-entered the park model market in 2005 when Soard joined the company as general manager. He said Fairmont Homes uses its housing expertise to build more durable and livable park models. The company has been expanding its market share in recent years.
Management: John Soard, general manager
Contact Information: 502 S. Oakland Ave., Nappanee, IN 46550; (800) 777-8787; fax (800) 865-2294; www.fairmontparktrailers.com
Forest River Inc.
2013 Focus: Forest River is conducting a major overhaul of its park model products. “We are in the midst of the biggest series of product changes in several years,” said account manager Gary Duncan, adding that the company has introduced four new floorplans and expanded its offering of wood colors, cabinet designs and window treatments. New kitchen backsplashes and hidden hinges for cabinets were introduced. Kitchen cabinet and pantry shelves are now adjustable. Countertop choices were expanded. Pullout trash cans and pull out pantries are now featured in most floorplans. New window treatments feature hard valances and give a more upscale look. Accent furniture has been updated. Interior doors are also now stained to match the cabinets. On the outside, new vinyl siding colors were added. Shutters have been added to entry doors and loft windows. Duncan said the changes have been well received. “We had an extremely good show in Louisville,” he said. “We signed up several new dealers, primarily as a result of the product changes we made.”
Background: Peter J. Liegl founded Forest River in January 1996 with an initial product lineup that included towable RVs and park models. Acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 2005, Forest River has continued to expand its product line, which now includes motorized RVs as well as restroom trailers and mobile offices. Its park model products are certified green and are manufactured in the Quail Ridge, Summit, and America’s Park Cabin model lines. A floorplan for the physically challenged is also available.
Management: Jim Foltz, general manager
Contact Information: 28936 Phillips St., Elkhart, IN 46514; (574) 264-7163; fax (574) 264-7364; www.forestriverinc.com
H L Enterprise Inc.
2013 Focus: H L Enterprise is focusing on expanding its dealer network of independent retail dealers including many campground owners. H L offerings provide flexible floorplans rather than the typical “cookie cutter” approach most often seen in the industry, according to Peggy Flager, H L Enterprise president and co-owner. “We are able to give our customers more of what they want and accommodate specific needs, including those involving limited mobility” she said.
Background: With over 100 years of combined RV industry experience, including the establishment of the original Hyline in 1986, owners Peggy Flager, Charles Ragland and Randy Hoff started H L Enterprise Inc. with the purchase of assets and the right to manufacture the Hyline product in January 2011. Product lines were broadened with the subsequent purchase of assets of Bridgeview Manufacturing and a portion of Discover Canada. The result is the current line-up of Hyline, Bridgeview, Georgian Bay and Harborview models.
Management: Co-owners Peggy Flager, Charles Ragland and Randy Hoff and General Manager Steve Stone
Contact Information: 21674 Beck Dr., Elkhart, IN 46516; (574) 294-1112; fax (574) 970-1303; www.hlenterpriseinc.com
2013 Focus: Pacific Yurts continues to expand its business in both domestic and international markets. “Our custom-curve window has been quite popular,” said company President Alan Bair. “It has a patent-pending design integrating a thermal pane window and beautiful curved wood frame, making the yurt more energy efficient.” Bair is also seeing growing demand for larger yurts. “Our customers are adding kitchenettes and bathrooms and more interior amenities. The “glamping” trend continues,” he said.
Background: Pacific Yurts was established in 1978 as the original manufacturer of the modern yurt. Pacific Yurts is the largest yurt manufacturer in the world with most of its sales taking place in the U.S. and Canada. However, the company also sells significant numbers of yurts to customers in Europe and Asia. International sales account for about 5% to 10% of Pacific Yurts’ business, but international sales are growing, according to Bair.
Management: Alan Bair, president
Contact Information: 77456 Highway 99 South, Cottage Grove, OR 97424; (541) 942-9435; fax (541) 942-0508; www.pacificyurts.com
Pinnacle Park Homes
2013 Focus: Pinnacle Park Homes is expanding its offering of floorplans for its cabin rental products this year. “We took input from campground owners and are tweaking our floor plans,” said Terri Stewart, co-owner of Pinnacle Park Homes. “Our cabin rental line has done very well for us.” Pinnacle Park Homes has also established new lender relationships, which it shares with campground operators who need financing for their park model purchases. “Financing is still tough, but we keep building relationships with people,” Stewart said.
Background: Founded in 2003, Pinnacle Park Homes offers numerous park model floorplans with vinyl, Hardiboard, cedar or log exteriors. In addition to producing park models with vinyl and rustic exteriors, Pinnacle Park Homes produces the Lighthouse series of floating cabins, which are park models constructed on a floating device. The company also offers ADA compatible and ADA compliant park models based on campground needs and requirements.
Management: Terri Stewart, co-owner
Contact Information: 26488 GA Highway 3, Ochlocknee, GA 31773; (229) 574-5159; fax (229) 574-5184; www.pinnacleparkhomes.com
2013 Focus: Skyline is having market success with new park model designs that include drywall interiors, which can be more easily repaired than damaged wood paneling. This feature is of particular interest to campground operators who use park models as rental accommodations. “This past year and a half we’ve gotten the product where we wanted to get it,” said Terry Decio, Skyline’s vice president of sales and marketing, adding that the company had very successful trade shows in Elkhart, Ind., and Louisville, Ky. Its rental product line, initially launched through a partnership with ARVC, is gaining traction in campground industry.
Background: Skyline is a diversified company that produces travel trailers and fifth-wheels as well as manufactured homes and park models. Its park models include both 8½-foot-wide and 12-foot-wide units. Skyline has been building park models since the early 1980s. It currently manufactures park model rental units in five factories across the country, including Hemet, Calif.; McMinnville, Ore.; Lancaster, Wis.; Ocala, Fla.; and Leola, Pa.
Management: Kevin Garthus, national product manager
Contact Information: 2520 By-Pass Road, Elkhart, IN 46515; (800) 755-6521, fax (574) 294-6521; www.skylinecorp.com and www.skylinepm.com
Champion Home Builders Inc. announced today (Aug. 8) that as part of its recent acquisition of Athens Park Homes of Athens, Texas, it will be expanding the popular Athens Park Homes brand of park models to a broader program and will be building them at strategically placed plants throughout the U.S.
The targeted locations include Champion facilities in Chandler, Ariz., Weiser, Idaho, York, Neb., Athens, Texas, Sangerfield, N.Y., Lillington, N.C., and Lake City, Fla., according to a news release
Dick Grymonprez, currently vice president of sales and marketing for Athens Park Homes, has been named Champion’s director of national park model sales. Grymonprez has many years of experience in park model sales and is currently president of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) and serves on the board of the directors of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), as well as the park trailer and destination camping committee.
"I am really excited about the opportunity to combine the strengths of our two companies," said Grymonprez. "Athens Park Homes is recongnized as a national brand. However, with rising freight prices the logistical challenge of shipping from only one location in Texas has impacted our ability to compete nationwide. Our expanded footprint gives us the opportunity to provide the very best in park model homes and cabins to more of our customers at a lower price."
Athens Park Homes are currently sold through retailers, developers and campground owners in 37 states as well as Finland and Japan.
Troy, Michigan-based Champion Home Builders Inc. is a leader in factory-built construction which, through its operations and those of its affiliates, manufactures products at 29 facilities in North America and the United Kingdom and distributes its products through independent retailers, builders and developers. The Champion family of builders produces manufactured, modular and park model homes, as well as modular buildings for government and commercial applications. For more information, please visit www.championhomes.com.
Champion Home Builders Inc., a North American leader in manufactured and modular homes, announced the purchase of Athens Park Homes, a manufacturer of U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) code and park model homes, located in Athens, Texas.
This acquisition adds capacity for Champion in the Texas HUD market, as well as a highly regarded brand in park model homes, according to a news release. Athens Park model homes are structures less than 400 square feet built to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. They are considered recreational vehicles, although they are primarily designed for permanent placement at a destination.
“I am delighted with the purchase of Athens Park Homes,” said Champion Homes CEO Jack Lawless. “The acquisition of this respected company provides us with much needed additional capacity in Texas, where we are experiencing some of our fastest growth. The addition of Athens Park Homes will allow us to continue to grow our market share in Texas and will give Champion a considerable presence in the park model sector. ”
“This is a tremendous fit. Champion’s financial strength will provide Athens Park Homes with resources for growth, and provide stability and opportunity to our employees, the community, and our trade customers,” said Athens Park Homes President Phil Surles. “Champion is an aggressive and growing company with great plans for future growth. I am excited that Athens Park Homes is now part of those plans. From my past association with Champion, I know they share our commitment to our customers to provide affordable, high quality homes.
With the addition of Athens Park Homes, Champion will own and operate 29 factories in the U.S., Western Canada and United Kingdom
Private park operators are continuing to increase their investments in park model cabins, cottages and yurts as they work to both diversify and fortify their business base in a challenging economy.
And even though private parks have been stepping up their investments in rental accommodations for several years, the parks themselves are still a long way from reaching the saturation point, according to both park model and yurt manufacturers.
“There’s no letup in demand for rental units,” said Joe Follman, sales manager for Ocala, Fla.-based Chariot Eagle, which is promoting new floorplans as well as more rustic cabin-style park models.
“I don’t think there’s saturation by any means,” said Alan Bair, president of Cottage Grove, Ore.-based Pacific Yurts, adding that demand for yurts as rental accommodations is coming from both public and private parks.
“Once a campground or park puts them in, they buy more,” Bair said. “People love the unique experience. It’s different than what they’re used to. It’s unusual and exciting and they remember it.”
Park model manufacturers report a similar experience. Small- and medium-size parks typically order one or two park models to start out, and then gradually increase the numbers based on consumer demand.
Some park operators say the level of demand for rental accommodations has surprised them.
Operator Surprised by Rental Demand
“It’s a market I didn’t plan on,” said Ken Butschek, who owns La Hacienda RV Resort near Lake Travis, Texas, who is seeing rising demand for park model rentals from RVers and non-RVers alike. His park model renters include Lynn and Gary Kingsbury of Vermont, who opted to leave their fifth-wheel at home this winter and rent a park model instead.
“One of the issues we have in leaving Vermont in January is that it’s quite an adventure with the cold and the snow and the roads,” Lynn Kingsbury said. “We love our RV. But we decided to see how we like staying in a park model.”
Liz Fisher of Seattle drove her Class B RV to La Hacienda RV Resort this winter as well, but she’s renting a park model instead of staying in her RV.
"One thing I like about park models is there are windows all around, so there is more light coming in, and I have a deck facing south, so I can enjoy the sun," she said.
Butschek said Winter Texans are also renting park models because they offer an easy way for retirees to enjoy the Sunbelt during the winter months. “I’m getting a lot of people renting my park models this winter because they don’t want to rent an apartment or sign a lease,” Butschek said. “Here, they don’t even have to turn on utilities. They just bring their clothes and food, and they’re good.”
Butschek said he is considering adding eight park models this year to his stock of 21 because of the winter traffic.
Park model rentals, of course, also enable park operators to broaden their business base to include individuals and families who don’t have a tent or RV, which explains their allure to public and private park operators across the country.
KOA, LSI Still Growing Park Model Segment
“We’re going to continue to grow (the rental) segment of our market,” said Pat Hittmeier, president of Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), adding, “I don’t think we’ve hit saturation by any stretch.”
KOA corporate and franchise parks purchased several hundred park models during the past two years, including 340 in 2010 and about 230 in 2011, Hittmeier said, adding that KOA parks plan to purchase another 230 park models this year, which the company plans to market as “deluxe cabins.”
Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), parent company of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, also expects its franchisees to continue to broaden their rental base with park models this year. “We saw revenues jump 13% in the rental business (in 2011),” said Rob Schutter, LSI’s COO. “We don’t see that abating any time in the near future.”
Aside from broadening a park’s business base, park models can significantly increase a park’s income, said Dick Grymonprez, vice president of marketing for Athens Park Homes in Athens, Texas. He added that park operators can pay off their units in less than two years in some locations.
“In my campground, it’s about 20 months,” said Joe Moore, general manager of The Vineyards Campground and Cabins in Grapevine, Texas, adding that park models can generate two to three times the revenue of a typical RV site. “It depends on how well you market the product and what your clientele is and your location,” Moore said, adding that he’s been purchasing units from Athens Park Homes in recent years.
Ken Lawrence, production manager for Indianapolis, Ind.-based Yurts of America, which featured a yurt at the Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo in Savannah, Ga., sponsored by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), said the payback can be even faster with yurts, given their lower cost. He added that 24- and 30-foot-wide yurts are also available, which are ideal for large groups, such as children with chaperones.
Builders to Market Product at State Shows
Increased park operator interest in rental units has also generated increased competition among manufacturers as they compete for sales in a challenging business environment.
“It is a fairly competitive market,” said Daryle Lambright, North America sales manager for Woodland Park in Middlebury, Ind. “We really see the rental market opening up to more floor plans as well as some units with nicer features and residential style appointments.”
Despite the competition, growing numbers of park model manufacturers are stepping up their involvement in the rental market. “We’re going after the rental market more than we have before,” Lambright said.
Larry Weaver, sales manager of Goshen, Ind.-based Dutch Park Homes, whose product offering includes a log cabin style park model, said his company is also stepping up its involvement in the rental accommodations market. “We’re going to be a lot more aggressive at Dutch Park than we have been,” he said. “We’re going to attend the Ohio and Michigan state shows,” he said. “By being at the state shows, we’ll find out what (parks) want and we’ll build it. Rental units are really coming on strong. You need to be where people are looking for rental units.”
ARVC has also weighed into the market, offering park operators significant savings on rental units through a preferred provider agreement with Elkhart, Ind.-based Skyline Corp. Skyline, in fact, is expected to showcase a new rental unit for the campground market in March during the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners (WACO) conference and trade show.
Solar-Powered Park Model Unveiled at Tampa Show
Phoenix, Ariz.-based Cavco Industries, for its part, has increased its competitive edge by acquiring other companies, including Palm Harbor Homes, Fleetwood and Nationwide Homes, which provide Cavco with the ability to produce park models in every region of the country. “Our direction has always been to work outside of the box and create products that are conducive to the property that wants rental cabins or cottages,” said Tim Gage, Cavco’s national vice president of park models, cabins and specialty products.
Cavco’s latest park model designs include a new off-grid solar powered park model cottage, which the company showcased at the KOA convention in Las Vegas, as well as the nation’s first “net zero” park model, which was shown by its Palm Harbor Homes subsidiary in January at the Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa.
“This is green to the point of being ‘net zero,’ which means you typically have a ‘zero dollar’ utility bill or in some cases end up selling power back to the utility company,” said Mike Wnek, Palm Harbor’s senior vice president, adding that the unit’s 3.2 KW photovoltaic panels generate more than enough electricity to use each day.
Dubbed the Staniel Cay Eco Cottage, after an island in the Exuma Cays archipelago east of the Bahamas, the 399-square-foot unit is designed for use as a part-time residence or vacation cottage in Sunbelt RV resorts as well as on private property in the Caribbean and Central America.
Builders Say Lending Environment Improving
About the only thing putting a brake on park model sales is the availability of financing. “I could list 10 campgrounds who will tell me they’ll buy five park models right now if we could find them some financing,” said Grymonprez of Athens Park Homes. “We need some new lenders out there.”
But while the limited availability of financing has limited the park model industry’s growth in recent years, some park model manufacturers tell Woodall’s Campground Management they are starting to see some improvement in the availability of financing.
“The market has started to loosen,” said Lambright of Woodland Park. “We’re hearing a lot less complaints from the dealers (about the availability of financing). There are a couple more lenders that have entered the market, which has helped as well.”
Andy Davis, national sales manager for Pinnacle Park Homes in Ochlocknee, Ga., is also seeing some improvement in the availability of financing.
Manufacturers are also working to increase their sales of park models to consumers, who use them as weekend retreats or vacation cottages at private parks across the country. “This time of year, most of our sales are in Florida and Texas, but there is still business going up north,” said Follman of Chariot Eagle.
Some park model manufacturers are seeing rising demand for their units in Canada and overseas as well. “We’re actually building units for China,” said Dave Hostetler, sales manager for Bridgeview Manufacturing in Elkhart, Ind. “A lot of our business is overseas.”
Bair of Pacific Yurts is also seeing rising demand for yurts overseas, particularly from vacation resorts in Europe. “We expect to see a continuing trend of (sales) improvement,” he said.
The leading suppliers to the outdoor hospitality industry wrapped up a busy 2011 season with major trade shows in the final quarter of the year.
Within a five-week span, vendors were crisscrossing the nation for outdoor hospitality-centered shows in Las Vegas (Kampgrounds of America), Covington, Ky. (Leisure Systems Inc.) and Savannah, Ga. (National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds) Other shows were in Louisville, Ky., and even on the Internet.
These companies – vendors of everything today’s RV park or campground needs to succeed – report good prospects as the year came to an end.
Lewiston, Maine-based Evergreen Insurance has a busy year-end schedule that is typical of other campground vendors.
“This fall/winter season Evergreen is attending over a dozen conventions stretching from Maine to Alaska and including state organizations, national ARVC, KOA and Yogi,” said Lucas Hartford, president. “While some vendors are choosing the route of virtual trade shows, and we recognize the importance of technology, we still feel it is extremely important to meet campgrounds and parks face to face. Insurance purchasing requires someone to trust their agent and this can only done by seeing people and not solely by e-mail, virtual trade shows or video conferencing.
“So this year Evergreen is making sure to see people face-to-face at conventions and then to introduce them to technological tools that we offer that can make their life easier. We have recently revised our website to make it much more client friendly including a new section of client-only articles and information. We have also released a new video produced exclusively for the camping industry that is available to clients on DVD or online which is titled “Emergencies: Are You Prepared?”
Athens Park Homes has seen business increase 17% in “a very flat market,” noted Dick Grymonprez, vice president of sales and marketing for the Athens, Texas-based park model manufacturer.
“Our Rental Cottage series is our most popular line of cabins because they come standard with a 6-foot front porch and they have very rental friendly floorplans and features. In this economy, people seem more open to renting at a campground or resort than they do purchasing somewhere,” he said.
Athens Park Homes just participated in the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) Fall Conference at the Vineyards Campground in Grapevine. They purchased seven cabins from Athens Park Homes in 2010 and they have helped the campground increase revenue by 30% in 2011. At the conference Athens Park Homes was named the "indorsed provider" for the TACO members.
Ron Romens, president and owner of Commercial Recreation Specialists (CRS), was excited to introduce the company’s new “H2 Whoa Zone” concept at the trade shows. The “Zone” is a business model whereby a campground owner can convert any waterfront setting into an attraction.
“We have recruited landscape architects and aquatic biologists to give an owner a master plan what that area would look like, then help them with their business model to help them operate that as well,” explained Romens. “It’s a model that works very well in the campground industry. We have done it informally the last few years but will formalize it a little more and put some design parameters around it.”
As for new products, CRS also unveiled the “Zoom Flume.” This inflatable slide is just 9 inches deep and is designed to be set on a hillside and exit into a lake or pond. The flumes come in 30-foot-long sections. “You could link four of these 30-foot sections and have a 120-foot hillside water slide,” Romens noted.
Now is a good time to introduce some economical alternatives such as the “Zoom Flume,” Romens said. “The reason I think the timing is good,” he said, “is all this is very active recreation. It gets kids moving, gets families recreating together. It’s very sustainable. It’s bringing people back to nature. Water parks have been very big for a long time but there is a lot of overhead. It is much less expensive to start up and build a facility like this, even to dig your own lake, and costs less to operate.”
“We set one up in Oklahoma and the owner sold 20,000 day passes in six weeks. You don’t have to charge a lot of money either to create this attraction,” Romens said.
CRS also is showing its Wibit line of inflatable water toys, a new standup paddleboard, mini golf, playground structures and shade structures.
Eric Stumberg, co-founder of TengoInternet, the leading Wi-Fi service provider for the outdoor hospitality industry, says Wi-Fi data usage is up 100% and mobile devices such as iPhones, Droids, iPads and iPods have become the No. 1 devices connecting to the networks.
As a result, he says, “We are showing products and services to increase Wi-Fi network capacity to meet rising guest expectations and services/economics to pay for the higher service level.”
Stumberg expects 2012 to be a strong year.
Jamestown Advanced Products is showcasing its new line of dog park products.
“We see dog park receptacles and agility park equipment as being huge for us in 2012,” said Robb Jones, sales manager for the Jamestown, N.Y.-based firm.
In addition, he added, “We will display our Fire View Ring, which we rolled out earlier in 2011 to much success. Our brand new Smoker Grill will be showcased as well. We also have a new addition to our stable of bike racks, which is called the Cassadaga rack.”
Peter Kearns of Niagara Falls, Ontario-based Mission Management Information Systems said his company is showcasing an upgrade to its www.bookyoursite.com booking system that will allow the camper consumer to better select the site for which they prefer over the Internet. The company is also releasing Campground Manager Software that enhances functionality and improves the accounting and marketing utility of the product, he said.
“The big push will be on the testing and exhibiting of our new iPhone application. We are excited by this,” Kearns said. “The iPhone app will allow campgrounds with Bookyoursite.com to receive reservations booked through a camper’s iPhone and iPad. Later, Android and BlackBerry capability will be added.”
He added, “The next year we are expecting our online booking Bookyoursite.com business to grow in the double figure range and the Campground Manager Software property management side to grow in the single digit numbers. We are seeing more and more parks on the corporate end focus exclusively on the seasonal camper, which should increase business for our transient customers.
Chris Kornely, the self-styled “diva of dump stations” at The Tower Co., reported “an excellent trade show” at the recent KOA Convention where “orders were brisk.”
Manitowoc, Wis.-based Tower is showing its water tower and accessories for campground dump stations and DOGIPOT pet waste products, along with Pick Up Stix for garbage cleanup.
“As we say at The Tower Co., ‘We are good for crap of all kinds!’ At The Tower Co. we want to make the experience of dump station purchase and maintenance as easy as possible and have a little fun too. We are proud to have customers tell us they have had their towers serving their dump station needs for over 45 years.”
LCN Outdoors, Windsor, Conn., promoted RV parts at its shows.
“It’s a good deal for operators if they accept selling parts to people,” said Norman Boucher, president. These include drawer guides, hinges and the like, things that break on RVs and often need replacing.
He also is promoting an energy-saving device from Peak Energy that recycles electricity in your home or small business. “We had it at the NCA convention and sold a bunch of them,” he noted.
Wade Elliott of Utility Supply Group showed the company’s Heritage line of pedestals and surface mount boxes, the Xlerator Hand Dryer, electric meters, add a meter kits and water meters used to reduce resource usage, wire and distribution panels, electrical layouts, electrical vehicle chargers, replacement and repair parts and Pagoda light kits.
He observed, “2010 was a very good year for them, so (being) even with last year, it is not so bad, considering. I would say that most parks are cautious and uncertain about 2012. I believe that the outdoor hospitality industry will still outperform other vacation and recreation options and look forward to a good year in 2012.”
Tyler Duffy, president of Campground Automation Systems Inc., Mt. Juliet, Tenn., is promoting his company’s new Sunrise product.
“Sunrise is an advanced reservations management service that combines all types of reservation management needs into a single real-time service,” he told WCM. “Sunrise provides an end-to-end system that includes user-friendly online reservations, a powerful campground owner's management system, convenient self-service express check-in kiosks, and utility control and metering. The elegantly simple user interface is easy to learn and use. Each component is designed to provide a fully integrated, efficient, user-friendly experience.”
He added, “Sunrise provides real-time, online reservations that are fully integrated with the campground owners' management system for efficiency and convenience. Double data-entry is a thing of the past. The system is web-based so not only can customers access reservation information anytime, but the campground owner can manage their business from the park office, home or anywhere else they can access an Internet browser. No more waiting to retrieve important information from the single desktop located in the campground office, or paying multiple licensing fees to purchase copies of the software for separate computers.”
Pete Parafin of Fluid Manufacturing Inc., Lodi, Calif., says he expects sales of the company’s coin-operated shower systems to be “brisk” in 2012.
“Our shower control systems can save the parks big time money in water, sewage fees and utilities to heat the water,” he said. “Not only that, but to provide an excellent opportunity to add a little income to recover costs as well.”
The system enhances customer control of their showers, while creating an income stream to help pay for the cost of maintaining facilities, Parafin noted. In addition, most campers surveyed have been completely supportive of the program.
Enviro Design Products, Dunnellon, Fla., is promoting several waste management products for 2012, including its Grip-N-Lock, a watertight locking nylon sewer cap, and its brand new “Footloose,” a foot-operated, self-closing, odor-proof sewer cap “that’s going to add a new spin on sewer caps,” said company spokesman William Watts.
All three sewer cap models now come in three standard colors, but custom colors are available.
“This year we are discussing with our clients the need to provide increased bandwidth to their guests,” said Jim Ganley of CheckBox Systems, Gray, Maine. “As more travelers carry more devices that are Wi-Fi- and data-enabled, the amount of bandwidth that a property had available even a few years ago is likely insufficient today.
“We have the new HSv4 gateway controller that allows properties to use multiple Internet connections to increase bandwidth – for example, a DSL and cable modems together feeding the same system, or using multiple DSL modems to feed a system.
“We are also updating software to help properties mitigate issues with radio noise and to deal with P2P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing issues.”
He concluded, “2012 is looking really busy, as we see growth continuing in the outdoor hospitality sector, as well as lots of growth in other areas, such as water parks, amusement parks and public venues.”
Murray Kramer of Kramer Kreations, Pensacola, Fla., inventor of the Murbles game, reports growing popularity of his invention. The game, which resembles bocce, is now in 24 states. He doubled his 2010 sales in 2011 and says, “I think in 2012 we’ll turn the corner big time.”
The Murbles game is gaining traction in KOA stores (he was at the KOA Convention in Las Vegas to drum up new business) and he is making major inroads in Good Sam Samborees and rallies across the Southeast.
"A product that was unexpectedly popular for us in 2011 was our bear-proof trash and recycling receptacles,” said Bob Simonsen, spokesman for R.J. Thomas Mfg. Co. Inc./Pilot Rock, Cherokee, Iowa. “We've expanded the product line and had all models independently tested to be bear proof. We expect this popularity to continue in 2012.
“Plus, campfire rings are always popular. And there is a growing trend for site amenities to be in color. Whether the customer needs picnic tables or benches or trash receptacles, there is a demand for these products to be offered in a variety of colors.
He continued, “The last two years have been good for us, and we see that continuing in 2012. In 2009 when the recession first hit, many people were concerned how it would affect the camping industry. I know we were concerned. But as WCM has since reported, people still went camping, but maybe they didn't travel so far to do it. We saw the same thing in our business. Product requirements from campgrounds have been steady to increasing.”
“I would say our primary concern for 2012 is with the state park systems. Many states have been closing state parks because of budget problems. I attended the annual National Association of State Park Directors conference held in Custer, S.D., in September. Park sustainability (keeping parks open) was a big topic of discussion. When state budgets are cut the park directors are stuck in a position of making some tough decisions. Hopefully the worst of state park closures is behind us.”
Texas park operators recently got to see first hand how Joe Moore achieved a 30% increase in revenue at The Vineyards Campground & Cabins on Lake Grapevine.
He did it with the help of seven new park model cabins from Athens Park Homes, according to a news release.
“They give us good occupancies with about a 24- to 30-month pay back,” said Moore, who gave park operators a tour of The Vineyards Campground & Cabins on Oct. 23rd during the Texas Association of Campground Owners’ (TACO) fall conference.
While the Vineyards also added new RV sites, Moore said park models appeal to a broader market. “Twenty percent of the U.S. market has an RV, trailer or tent. But 100% of the market can use a cabin,” he said, adding that his cheapest cabin brings in twice as much revenue as his most expensive RV site.
Moore markets his cabins at prices ranging from $85 to $160 per night. He added that air-conditioned park models, outfitted with decks and barbecues and clean linens, do well in the greater Dallas market with its 6 1/2 million people.
“All of our cabins are within 100 feet of the lake,” he said, adding that his cabins were busy during the summertime, even on the hottest days when many people find it too hot to camp.
Moore talked about the merits of upgraded RV sites and park model cabins and answered their questions about tiered pricing, reservation systems, check-in procedures, revenue generated by the new camp store, and other aspects of park operations during a Q & A session.
“We had a good turnout,” said Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s CEO and executive director, said of the fall meeting and park tour, whose platinum sponsor was Rowley Insurance. Representatives from Athens Park Homes, TACO’s newly endorsed park model provider, were also in attendance.
Schaeffer also briefed park operators on new initiatives for 2012.
“One of the initiatives for next year will be a membership drive,” Schaeffer said. “We’re also going to start a new blogging program on TexasCampgrounds.com to drive more traffic to our members sites while keeping visitors informed.”
The meeting concluded with a barbecue at the Texas Star Dinner Theater in Grapevine.
The Texas Association of Campground Operators publishes and distributes the Texas RV Travel & Camping Guide and hosts two consumer websites with online reservation capabilities, including www.texascampgrounds.com and www.texascabinrentals.net.
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) has designated Athens Park Homes as an endorsed provider for park model sales to Texas parks.
“Athens Park Homes has been a member of TACO for many years. They have supplied hundreds of park models to our members. They provide great products and service, and we wholeheartedly recommend them and their products,” Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director and CEO, stated in a news release.
He added that Athens’ endorsed provider status translates into significant savings and other benefits for TACO members.
For starters, any TACO member that purchases a park model from Athens Park Homes will receive a free Galvalume metal roof, which is normally a $900 upgrade, as well as a two-year warranty instead of the standard one-year warranty that comes with each park model.
Texas parks also benefit from the fact that Athens Park Homes is based in Athens, Texas, which translates into lower park model shipping costs compared to the prices Texas park operators would pay if they purchase park models from out-of-state providers.
Schaeffer said Athens will have an increased presence at upcoming TACO trade shows, including the fall tour at The Vineyard Campground and Cabins in Grapevine held on Sunday (Oct. 23). The campground has had a terrific consumer response to the eight park model cabins it installed last year.
Athens has also agreed to donate the profits from the sale of one of its highly appointed park model units at the TACO Spring Show (auction) to support the association’s government affairs program, and to increase its advertising presence in TACO’s award-winning Texas RV Travel & Camping Guide, Schaeffer said.
“We’re very excited to receive TACO’s endorsement,” said Dick Grymonprez, vice president of sales and marketing for Athens Park Homes, which has enjoyed a 17% increase in January through September park model sales compared to last year’s figures.
Founded in 2004, Athens currently accounts for about 8% of the nation’s park model sales, Grymonprez said, adding that much of Athens’ recent sales involve campgrounds that are purchasing park models for use as rental accommodations.
TACO publishes and distributes the Texas RV Travel & Camping Guide and serves as a clearing house for camping related information in Texas. For statistics and commentary involving the latest camping trends in Texas and New Mexico parks, contact Brian Schaeffer at (817) 307-0129 or visit www.texascampgrounds.com and www.texascabinrentals.net.
For more information on Athens Park Homes, visit its website at www.athensparkhomes.com.
The second half of 2011 has been solid for Athens Park Homes, Athens, Texas, which continues to expand its reach throughout the country.
“We are excited about the second half of 2011 because many people are using our cottages for rental purposes,” said Dick Grymonprez, vice president of sales and marketing. “There has been a lot of interest lately from oil companies looking for housing for their employees. We also continue to work with campground owners all over the United States to give them the best quality in rental housing in the industry.”
Athens Park Homes park model business is up 11% to date from 2010.
“I believe that the economy will have to improve in order for all of us to see additional growth in 2012. I believe parks purchasing rental units will be strong, but I don’t see individuals buying weekend homes or get-a-ways until everything starts picking up. Not many people are generating enough cash to purchase a second home right now.”
Athens Park Homes was started in 2004 by a group of investors led by Phil Surles, former COO of Champion Enterprises Inc.
The company manufactures luxury park model cottages, sportsman’s lodges, rental cabins and suites, specialty buildings, HUD and modular housing to meet any codes. Their products are built in an environmentally controlled 140,000-square-foot building center, which is one of the largest in the country, according to Grymonprez.
The company’s standard park model lineup features the look of high-end residential homes. Grymonprez said Athens Park Homes is one of the few manufacturers that build with ½-inch sheetrock walls that are fully taped, textured and painted in many popular colors.
“We also offer pine and cedar walls and ceilings for a more rustic look,” he said. “Our exteriors are 100% fiber-cement siding by James Hardie. We offer vertical or lap style, which can be stained cedar to give you the cabin look with a lot less maintenance.”
Interiors feature soffits over the cabinets, recessed lighting and 10-foot ceilings.
Park model cabins come with log, cedar or fiber-cement exterior siding. Rustic interiors have cedar walls and ceilings with purchased cabinet doors or the company’s own cedar cabinets and cabinet doors. Athens Park Homes will tape and texture the walls and add a cedar wainscot and trim. There are a variety of floorplans to choose from with new ones designed daily.
Athens Park Homes continues to offer luxury and customized options like built-in microwaves, dishwashers, granite counter tops, counter top ranges and convection ovens, fireplaces, marble window sills, French doors, laminate flooring, stereos, higher pitched roofs and more. Most appliances are available in white, black or stainless steel.
The company’s RV park models and cabins share the same construction features like 90-inch sidewalls and 16-inch on center exterior walls and floors.
Athens Park Homes, PO Box 1270, Athens, TX 75751, (800) 738-0392, email@example.com, www.athensparkhomes.com
Read this and related stories in the February issue of Woodall's Campground Management.
Company: Athens Park Homes
Location: Athens, Texas
Background: Athens Park Homes was founded in late 2004 by a group of investors led by Phil Surles, the former COO of Champion Homes. Surles has run the company ever since, and built it into one of the largest producers of park models in the country.
Best Selling Units: Athens sees the strongest demand for its cabin-style units. But its designs are changing in response to consumer and campground operator demand. “They want the cabin look, but they don’t like solid wood on the inside,” said Dick Grymonprez, Athens vice president of sales and marketing.
He said that women often prefer not to have so much wood inside the units. “I would say about 90% of what we’re building now is half texture, half wood. This way, the ladies can do some wallpapering and the guys can have their wood accents and trim.”
Grymonprez also sees a continuing preference for fiber cement siding by James Hardie, which can be stained to look like wood, but is much more durable and requires less maintenance.
“When we first started building our cabins in 2005, we built cedar or log-sided units. That was all we offered. But I bet right now we only do one or two cedar or log-sided cabins a month. The rest are stained. This is mainly because of the maintenance. I think Hardilap siding has taken off everywhere in the United States now. It’s fire-proof. It’s rodent-proof, and it holds paint much longer than a wood product or trim. You get double the longevity of the paint.”
Market Focus: Athens has a diversified business base, supplying campgrounds rental units while also providing consumers with a variety of different park model styles for use as vacation cottages as well as campground rental units.
Contact Info: Dick Grymonprez, vice president of sales and marketing; (903) 677-0108; fax (903) 677-0118; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.athensparkhomes.com
Company: Canterbury RV
Location: Goshen, Ind.
Background: Canterbury RV builds both 8-foot and 12-foot-wide park models on 8-inch I beam frames.
Best Selling Products: “Our best selling unit is our 12-wide loft unit: the Canterbury Classic,” said Tyler Steele, Canterbury RV’s vice president. The company has also introduced a new custom series called the Canterbury Select. “We give you 400 square feet. The rest is up to you, from start to finish,” he said.
Market Focus: Canterbury RV has traditionally produced park models for the retail market. But the company sees additional market opportunities in the campground business. “We’re looking at doing more rentals,” Steele said. “More and more campgrounds are realizing the benefits of having park models versus transient sites.”
Contact Info: Tyler Steele, vice president; (574) 534-0034; fax (574) 534-4342; email@example.com; www.canterburyrv.com
Company: Cavco Industries Inc.
Location: Phoenix, Ariz.
Background: Cavco helped ignite the park model boom in Arizona in the 1990s and, with the help of additional manufacturing plants in Seguin, Texas and Rocky Mount, Va., has since grown to become a major supplier of park models to consumers and campground operators in much of the country. Cavco’s cabin-style park models have become particularly popular with campgrounds that use them as rental units, including parks affiliated with Kampgrounds of America (KOA).
Best Selling Units: The most popular model for consumers is the Catalina series, which features tape and textured walls with rounded corners throughout as well as tape and textured plant shelves and soffits, bay windows and hardwood cabinet doors. “Our most popular cabins are side entrance cabins,” said Tim Gage, vice president of Cavco’s Specialty Division.
Market Focus: While Cavco initially provided winter cottages for snowbirds who wanted to winter in the Sunbelt, the company has since diversified its business base and is now a leading provider of rental cabins for campgrounds across the country, including Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) as well as state, national and county parks. “Right now, about 30% to 35% of our business is campground rental business,” Gage said.
Contact Info: Tyler Maddux; (800) 622-8260; fax (602) 484-7010; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.cavcoparkhomes.com
Company: Chariot Eagle Inc.
Location: Ocala, Fla., western division based in Phoenix, Ariz.
Background: Robert Holliday founded Chariot Eagle in June 1984 with five employees and subsequently built it into one of the larger park model manufacturers in the country, with manufacturing operations at its headquarters in Ocala, Fla., and at its sister plant, Chariot Eagle West, in Phoenix, Ariz., which it opened in 1995 to service the West Coast market. Both plants build the same types of products, although their floorplans vary.
Best Selling Units: A Model 314 with a convert-a-room, a park model with a built-in accordion door that can be opened to create a supersize living room or closed to create a second bedroom.
Market Focus: “Everything we do is custom,” said sales manager Joe Follman. “Nobody wants to be like the Joneses any more. The cookie-cutter days are long gone.” About 80% of Chariot Eagle’s sales are to consumers seeking vacation cottages, while about 20% of the company’s park models are for use as campground rental accommodations.
Contact Info: Tom Marcy, director of operations; (352) 629-7007; fax (352) 732-0026; email@example.com; www.charioteagle.com. For Chariot Eagle West, contact Terry Davidson; (623) 936-7545; fax (623) 936-7012; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.charioteaglewest.com
Company: Dutch Park Homes
Location: Goshen, Ind.
Background: Kermit Kropf was general manager of Supreme Corp.’s commercial truck body manufacturing facility in La Grange, Ky. before leaving the company to become president of Dutch Park Homes in 2003. Since that time, he has strived to set Dutch Park apart from its peers in the park model industry. Dutch Park’s employees are based in the company’s 32,000-square foot manufacturing plant in Goshen.
Best Selling Unit: “Our Classic Series is our most popular unit,” Kropf said. “It has many floorplans and options that people can customize.
Market Focus: About 70% of Dutch Park’s production is sold to consumers for use as vacation cottages, with roughly 30% going to campgrounds for use as rental units, said Dave Mockler, a company sales representative.
Contact Info: Dave Mockler, sales representative; (574) 642-0150; fax (574) 642-0155; email@example.com; www.dutchpark.com
Company: Fairmont Park Trailers, a division of Fairmont Homes
Location: Nappanee, Ind.
Background: John Soard spent 20 years with Breckenridge and Woodland Park before joining Fairmont Homes in 2005 to run the company’s park trailer division.
Fairmont Homes had been in the park model business back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and exited the market in 1994 to focus mainly on housing.
But the company re-entered the park model market in 2005 when Soard joined the company as general manager. He said Fairmont uses its housing expertise to build more durable and livable park models. “Livability is a big thing, the practicality of the floor plan, having the feeling of home, of open space,” Soard said. “Durability is also a big deal,” he said, adding that consumers are becoming more knowledgeable and discerning as they evolve out of travel trailers and into park models.
Best Selling Units: “The Model 136 is our most popular unit,” Soard said. “It’s a very practical unit. It has a very nice kitchen in it. It’s very user friendly. The living room is spacious and it has a double loft with plenty of room to sleep.”
Market Focus: “Loft models account for more than 90% of our business,” he noted, adding that the lofts are popular with families with young children as well as grandparents who have grandkids coming to visit them from time to time. Fairmont Homes primarily sells units through dealers and other retailers who sell them to consumers who use them as vacation cottages. However, about 10% of Fairmont’s park models are sold for use as campground rental units.
Contact Info: (800) 777-8787, ext. 3735; fax (574) 773-7964: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.fairmontparktrailers.com
Company: Pinnacle Park Homes Inc.
Location: Ochlocknee, Ga.
Background: Founded in 2003, Pinnacle Park Homes offers numerous park model floorplans with vinyl, Hardiboard, cedar or log exteriors. The company also produces the Lighthouse series of floating cabins, which are park models constructed on a floating device.
Best Selling Units: “Our custom deluxe cabins and our camping cabins are our most popular units,” said Andy Davis, senior sales manager. “Our Custom Deluxe Cabin and Camping Cabin Suite designs have been well received and become proven profit generators.”
Cabin Suites include a cedar lap exterior, 6-foot open porch with pressure-treated decking, a 29-gauge colored metal roof and a rustic pine interior with all wood cabinets and drawers and wood grain linoleum throughout.
Market Focus: Campground rental units are becoming an increasingly important focus for Pinnacle Park Homes. “Listening to the needs and desires of campground owners and then turning that input into an affordable and profitable cabin design has been a crucial key to our growth,” Davis said, adding that rental units account for the majority of Pinnacle’s park model business.
Contact Info: Andy Davis, senior sales representative; (866) 574-5159; fax (229) 574-5184; email@example.com; www.pinnacleparkhomes.com
Company: Skyline Corp.
Location: Elkhart, Ind.
Background: Skyline is a diversified company that produces travel trailers and fifth-wheels as well as manufactured homes and park models. Its park models include both 8 ½-foot-wide and 12-foot-wide units.
Best Selling Units: Skyline’s most popular park models are its Shore Park Homes, which feature a variety of interior and exterior materials designed for specific regional tastes. Shore Park Homes’ exteriors range from vinyl lap siding with shingle roofs to cedar log siding with metal roofs. Interiors can include a rustic cedar or pine finish throughout or a fully finished and painted drywall.
Market Focus: Skyline is working to expand its business base in the park model arena. “As a national producer of park models and destination trailers, Skyline continues to seek new means of distribution, including both ‘street dealers’ and campgrounds,” said Terry Bodenbender, Skyline’s vice president of sales and marketing. He said Skyline has a coast-to-coast network of manufacturing facilities, which reduce freight costs and improves service response times.
Company: Western Homes’ Silvercrest Division
Location: Corona, Calif.
Background: Western Homes is a subsidiary of Champion Enterprises Inc., headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich. The company’s Silvercrest plant in Corona produces manufactured housing, modular homes as well as park models, the latter of which it has produced for the past 18 years.
Best Selling Units: Silvercrest’s best-selling units are its Chalet series park models, which feature an overhead plant shelf, tape and textured walls, Clerestory windows and a generous use of hardwoods.
Market Focus: Western Homes’ Silvercrest Division has historically produced park models for the retail market. But the company is increasingly producing units for privately owned campgrounds and RV resorts as well as government run parks.
“In the next 60 to 90 days, we’ll have a new campground product available,” said Al Whitehouse, general manager of Western Homes’ Silvercrest division. “This will be a special campground series that will range from simplistic but nice units to 400 square foot park models with lofts and very nice amenities.”
Contact Info: Al Whitehouse, general manager; (951) 734-6610; fax (951) 737-1794; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.silvercrest-rv.com
Company: Woodland Park
Location: Middlebury, Ind.
Background: Founded in 1983, Woodland Park manufactures high-end park models, including custom units with oak and cherry cabinetry. While the company has the capability to produce rental units, its primary focus is producing high quality park models for the retail market.
Best Selling Units: The Timber Ridge series 4011-45, 4011-46L and 4011-47L. Models 45 and 46 feature a “EuroKitchen,” which includes a corner cooktop with a stainless steel range hood and stainless steel backsplash with a kitchen island.
“It’s a beautifully laid out kitchen with a lot of storage and counter space,” said Dave Burroughs, Woodland Park’s North American sales manager.
The all-new 4011-47 “Middle Cathedral” unit features a living room entertainment center with optional fireplace surrounded by stone and topped with a solid wood mantle. The open kitchen and dinette area features “banquette seating,” a concept common in new homes because of its ability to comfortably seat several people while having the benefit of underseat storage. “This is a feature that is all new to the park model industry,” Burroughs said.
Market Focus: “We are known for producing a higher end custom product,” Burroughs said. “I’m not set up to run high volume. We put out one to 1 1/2 units a day. We’re after a very quality-conscious buyer.”
Contact Info: Dave Burroughs, North American sales manager; (574) 825-2104; fax (574) 825-2487; email@example.com; www.woodland-park.com
Read this and related stories in the February issue of Woodall's Campground Management.
With 67 RV sites, cottonwood trees, rock climbing walls and a three-acre fishing lake stocked with trout and catfish, Rancho Jurupa Park in Riverside, Calif., lives up to its billing as “a perfect setting for a quick escape from the city.”
Operated by the Riverside County Regional Park & Open Space District, it’s also one of a growing number of government-run parks investing in park models as rental accommodations.
“We did a feasibility study and a master plan, and one of the features that was called out was cabins for folks who want to get outdoors and have a nice recreational experience, but don’t have a camping unit themselves,” said Scott Bangle, general manager of park district.
Riverside County just installed six Silvercrest park models at Rancho Jurupa Park, and the county plans to add more park models to other county parks in the future. “I could see having a handful of units at every park,” Bangle said. “(They) will be part of our inventory at all of our major regional parks someday.”
Riverside County, of course, isn’t the only government agency that’s investing in park models as rental units. Phoenix, Ariz.-based Cavco Industries Inc. just delivered 25 park model cabins to Lassen National Park in Northern California, and the company is in discussions with other California counties about purchasing parks models for use as rental accommodations, said Tim Gage, vice president of Cavco’s Specialty Division.
“We believe that the government campground parks are a marketplace that hasn’t been fully explored at this point,” said Gage.
Private parks, for their part, have been stepping up their investments in park model cabins in recent years. But despite the significant purchases of park model cabins as rental units by Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI) and operators of independent parks, North America’s private campground sector is still a long way from being saturated with rental accommodations.
In fact, the KOA system, which purchased 317 park models last year, is now waiving royalty fees on park model income for one year on any new units that its franchisees purchase this year.
“The idea is to encourage more KOAs to invest in lodging,” said Mike Atkinson, director of lodging for the Billings, Mont.-based franchisor, adding that park models are “becoming an absolute necessity to grow your campground income.”
Necessity or not, park models accounted for 1,168 of KOA’s 1,530 fully equipped (with bathrooms) rental accommodations systemwide in 2010 and generated over three times as much income as typical RV sites. “Park models have the longest short-term occupancy and you get over three times the money,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson added that most people who could be potential campground accommodations guests have not even been exposed yet to the concept.
Of course, Atkinson cautions that simply purchasing park models doesn’t turn into immediate revenue hikes because they have to be marketed. He says it typically takes three years for them to reach their marketing potential.
Nevertheless, some park operators find that these ordinarily rustic-looking units outperform their expectations.
Scott Cory, managing partner of Ventura Ranch KOA in the mountains southeast of Santa Barbara, Calif., installed four Cavco park models at his park in June of last year. It was the first time his park offered accommodations and he found that his guests responded very favorably to his investment.
“Lodging is the biggest ‘wow’ factor we’ve done at our park,” he said, adding that he plans to purchase six more park models this year. He also complements his park models with glamour tents and teepees.
Manufacturers, for their part, are increasingly rolling out more park model rental options, not only to accommodate rising demand for rental units, but to make up for recent declines in sales to consumers who traditionally purchased park models and placed them on leased campsites for use as their own private vacation cottage.
“We’re looking at doing more rentals because more and more campgrounds are realizing the benefits of having park models versus transient RV sites,” said Tyler Steele, vice president of Canterbury RV in Goshen, Ind.
“Listening to the needs and desires of campground owners and then turning that input into an affordable and profitable cabin design has been a crucial key to our growth,” said Andy Davis, sales manager for Pinnacle Park Homes in Ochlocknee, Ga.
Some park model manufacturers, however, still focus most of their attention on producing units for consumers who want to buy them for use as vacation cottages that they can place on leased or purchased campsites in campgrounds, RV parks or resorts.
“We’re probably about 10% for campground rentals, while 90% of our production is for retail sales,” said John Soard, general manager of Fairmont Park Trailers in Nappanee, Ind.
Joe Follman, sales manager for Chariot Eagle Inc. in Ocala, Fla., added that park operators that rent or lease sites to park model owners can benefit from having a steady income stream. “I think there’s still a lot of room to grow in this industry, both in the Sunbelt and up north,” he said. “There’s still plenty of business out there. We’re such a small percentage of the RV business.”
A continuing roadblock is the availability of financing, both for consumers and parks that want to purchase park models for use as rental accommodations.
“You can show how quickly they can be paid off, and how it’s a great investment to put cabins in. But the lenders are just not buying aggressively,” said Dick Grymonprez of Athens Park Homes in Athens, Texas. “If we could get financing, all of us would be building more cabins. I can’t tell you how many campgrounds tell me, ‘If you can get us financing, we’ll buy six.’ I can’t tell you how many roadblocks we face getting them financed.”
But there is money out there. Parks are continuing to purchase park models. And, increasingly, manufacturers tell Woodall’s Campground Management that the best sources are local lenders rather than nationally known lenders that have little knowledge or experience with the park model product.
The same approach can also help consumers find sources of financing for park models they’d like to purchase as private vacation cottages. “We’re recommending that dealers work with their local banks and educate them about the lack of defaults in the park model world and why it’s a good business model for them,” said Steele of Canterbury RV.