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Andy Cates Developing the ‘Hilton of RV Parks’

July 18, 2011 by · Comments Off on Andy Cates Developing the ‘Hilton of RV Parks’ 

Entrepreneur Andy Cates, the guy who is credited with helping steer the NBA to Memphis, Tenn., is now driven to shake up the RV park and campground industry with his fledgling enterprise, RVC Outdoor Destinations.

Andy Cates

Cates recently took a reporter from the Commercial Appeal to the newest — and nearest to Memphis — of RVC’s five upscale developments, Catherine’s Landing in Hot Springs, Ark. Cates is eager to show RV owners and outdoor enthusiasts how different Catherine’s Landing is from typical RV parks and campgrounds.

So different, he refuses to label his as “RV parks,” calling them “outdoor destinations” instead.

So different, RVC claims to have invented a new category for the industry, one that offers consistently beautiful natural spaces, upscale amenities, and fine-tuned customer service.

So different, RVC clamors for the kind of “segmentation” in the RV park industry that hotels enjoy. Hotel travelers, for example, instantly know from seeing the signs for a Motel 6, Hampton Inn or Hilton what to expect from each in service, amenities and price.

RVC considers itself the Hilton of RV parks.

In addition to the KOAs, Jellystones and the independent campgrounds, RVC seeks to distinguish itself from the government parks, too.

“A lot of state and federal parks have incredibly attractive outdoor environments, but an underwhelming service culture and operating culture,” Cates says. “We’re trying to democratize phenomenal recreational land.”

So after reaching Hot Springs in under three hours, Cates first gives a quick driving tour of a competing, independently owned RV park that’s been, he says, “arguably the highest-rated in town.”

Typical site at Catherine's Landing, Hot Springs, Ark.

On a slow Monday morning, he points out at least four motorhomes worth $200,000 in a place that offers views of the surrounding hills, but no pool or access to recreational water.

The 41-year-old Cates motors on to RVC’s three-month-old Catherine’s Landing, nestled on 400 acres of a former dairy farm along the banks of Lake Catherine.

The entrance is a long, gently curving ribbon of asphalt that eventually reveals the welcome center/headquarters lodge designed by Memphis architects Hunter Fleming and John Harrison Jones.

The stone, metal and glass building, perched on a rise, is modern and striking, with an angled roof that opens the lobby’s glass wall to a terraced, saline swimming pool and below to the campground and Lake Catherine.

Cates leads his guests straight to the men’s restroom to show they sparkle and are extra private. Each toilet and shower stall, while illuminated in natural light from windows above, is a room to itself.

The lodge has a store, wine and coffee, large fireplace with a flat-screen TV, washers and dryers, a fitness room and even a “Wii-dia room” where families can play Wii video games on a large screen.

RVC doesn’t just provide Wi-Fi and coffee, he says. “We offer good Wi-Fi and good coffee.”

Manager Brad Boler and assistant manager Ian Horgan provide Cates a golf cart to tour the grounds.

He drives through the 120 RV spaces ($40 to $45 daily weekdays, $42 to $50 weekends), which are dotted with either motorcoaches or fifth-wheel rigs. Circles of lawn chairs and clusters of bikes sit outside nearly every RV.

Planted among the concrete RV pads are young oak, elm and pine trees. The new grass turf has not yet been established.

Cates stops the cart to show the fenced dog park, saying, “A huge portion of guests have pets.”

He continues to the row of 25 RV sites that line the bank of calm Lake Catherine. If the water looks more like a pretty river, it was. Construction of Remmel Dam turned it into an 11-mile-long lake in 1924.

The golf cart reaches Catherine’s Landing’s 13-slip dock, where a pontoon boat and kayaks are available to rent. Cates points to an extra bathroom RVC built near the dock for the convenience of boaters and fishermen.

The tour continues to the picnic pavilion, its dramatically angled roof mirroring the lodge design and sheltering 20 picnic tables. There’s an ice machine and showers.

He drives the cart as far as he dares into the undeveloped Phase II property, gets out and puts his hiking shoes to use.

“I want to show y’all a neat hiking trail,” says Cates, a slim road cyclist who now speed-walks ahead of the pack into the woods.

Catherine’s Landing doesn’t accommodate tent campers, but does offer high-end camping — “glamping” — with five air-conditioned yurts ($50-$70 a night) clustered under a canopy of towering trees.

Each has hardwood floors, beds, a skylight at its peak and its own picnic table and grill. The yurts — vinyl wrapped around wood framing — sleep four to eight-plus, depending on their size.

Close by is the pavilion with bathrooms, showers and ice.

Atop the hill behind the welcome lodge sits 10 small cottages ($140 to $160 a night) that can sleep four people within their 400 square feet. Each includes a covered deck with ceiling fan, full kitchen and flat-screen TV. They’re actually little mobile homes, but it’s hard to tell by looking.

In future phases, RVC plans to sell the cottages and lease the ground they sit on.

Both the corporate and independent owners of other campgrounds might acknowledge how nice their new competition is, but question the business model.

After all, they’re receiving roughly the same per-unit revenue without nearly the costs RVC has born.

“On a per-unit basis, we’re way out there and we know that,” Cates says. “If the consumer does not reward us, we’re in trouble.” RVC must enlarge its scale exponentially, creating a network of many dozens of outdoor destinations across the nation, he says.

“… If we’re unable to grow this, I’ll feel very stupid,” he says. “We’re not doing this for just six properties.”

Eventually RVC may raise prices to befit its amenities, but for now the company is sharply focused on getting more and more guests.

In addition to Catherine’s Landing, RVC has locations in Pine Mountain, Ga., south of Atlanta, Carrabelle Beach, Fla., Live Oak Landing, Fla., and Mountain Springs, N.C.

RVC Outdoor Destinations Ready to Open New Resort

January 4, 2011 by · Comments Off on RVC Outdoor Destinations Ready to Open New Resort 

A view of Catherine's Landing in western Arkansas.

Coming Feb. 1, Catherine’s Landing, an RVC Outdoor Destination, will be open for  business.

The resort is located in Hot Springs, Ark., on one mile of water frontage on Lake Catherine  and is the only outdoor property of its kind in the state and region, according to a news  release. After a year of planning and construction, the anticipated Catherine’s Landing will  be “your ideal natural environment mixed with your favorite hotel experience,” setting it apart from anything of its kind, the release continued.

“This is possibly the most extensive destination that we have built,” said Andy Cates, president of RVC Outdoor Destinations. “It was a blank canvas when we started, but we’ve been continually enhancing and adding to it to give people the ultimate outdoor vacation experience,” he added.

The resort offers several options:

  • An RV site with full hook-ups, 50-amp service, and cable.
  • One of the furnished RVC Resort Cottages, all of which include a loft, washer/dryer, dishwasher, and flat screen TV.
  • A yurt – a modern, round, tent-like structure with wooden floors, windows, skylights, beds with fresh linens, and heating and air conditioning.

Rates start at $40 for RV sites, $120 for resort cottages and $36 for yurts per night.

Amenities at Catherine’s Landing include a community lodge with coffee, beer and wine bar, convenience store, fitness center, concierge service, hiking and nature trails, game room, water access and boat rentals.

Catherine’s Landing is located on the Humphreys Dairy property and is the first hospitality development that Hot Springs has seen for many years. There will be a boat ramp and dock at Catherine’s Landing as well as available pontoon boats. In addition, the location to surrounding attractions such as Garvan Gardens, the Bath House Row in the historic district of Hot Springs and the horse races at Oaklawn were other reasons for choosing this location.

In the springtime, the resort will host an “open for celebration” event. More details will come later.

For more information on Catherine’s Landing, an RVC Outdoor Destination, visit http://www.catherineslanding.rvcoutdoors.com/. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook too: @CatherinesLand; http://www.facebook.com/pages/Catherines-Landing/222505657563.

RVC Outdoor Destinations owns and operates a unique collection of properties that combines natural environment with favorite hotel experience. RVC Outdoor Destinations has locations in Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. For more information, visit www.rvcoutdoors.com.

RVC Outdoor Destinations Expanding

October 1, 2010 by · Comments Off on RVC Outdoor Destinations Expanding 

Memphis, Tenn.-based RVC Outdoor Destinations is planning and preparing for better times despite the economic downturn.

While a few other companies may talk about buying properties, or their plans to do so, RVC is actually building, developing and expanding multiple outdoor destinations with a focus on RV, cabins, cottages and yurts, according to a news release.

“We’ve seen that most RV and cabin oriented properties have been unable or unwilling to keep up with customer demands, current technology or even basic maintenance,” said Andy Cates, president. “We are confident that by creating a new hospitality experience, our properties will continue to be successful and our company will expand. In fact, in addition to completing two properties over the next few months, we are actively acquiring land sites and existing RV oriented properties while also working to expand current locations. We are creating a new product type within the hospitality industry, defining our role as the best owner and operator of outdoor destinations in the United States.”

By February RVC will have six of its properties open and operating. Five properties will have been newly built or totally redeveloped and the sixth, Carrabelle Boat Club, is a state-of-the art boating facility with one mile of RVC’s Carrabelle Beach Outdoor Destination.

RVC currently has two destination locations open for business in Carrabelle Beach, Fla., and Pine Mountain, Ga. Properties in Freeport, Fla., (Live Oak Landing) and Hot Springs, Ark. (Catherine’s Landing) will open in November and February, respectively.

The common thread running through RVC’s outdoor destinations is the linking of beautiful, well planned environments with exceptional service and amenities. These unique properties, almost all of which are on water, provide an alternative to hotels, isolated cabins, and worn out campgrounds. By combining design that is sensitive to preserving the natural beauty of their environments with high quality accommodations, amenities and service, RVC is providing memorable vacation experiences and clearly defining the meaning of the phrase outdoor destination.

Renamed RVC Outdoor Destinations Has 5 Sites

December 7, 2009 by · Comments Off on Renamed RVC Outdoor Destinations Has 5 Sites 

RVC Outdoor Destinations logoReflecting the company’s commitment to providing a better outdoor hospitality experience in varied lodging types, RVC USA of Memphis, Tenn., has changed its name to RVC Outdoor Destinations.

The “Outdoor Destinations” concept, created by RVC, delivers memorable outdoor vacation experiences by providing upscale hotel service within beautiful environments that are sensitively developed, according to a news release.

The company caters to RVers, outdoor enthusiasts, fishermen, eco-tourists, boaters and others who love the outdoors but also appreciate resort-like services and amenities. The properties feature unique combinations of accommodations — RV pads, cottages, floating cottages, yurts (furnished and climate controlled tents) and rentable Airstreams trailers. Property amenities and services include boat slips and launches, saline swimming pools, hot tubs, state-of-the-art playgrounds, high quality landscaping and concierge services.

RVC Outdoor Destinations currently owns and manages five destinations:

  • Pine Mountain RV Resort, three miles from Callaway Gardens, in Georgia.
  • Catherine’s Landing, on Lake Catherine near Garvan Gardens, Oaklawn Race Track and downtown Hot Springs, Ark.
  • Carrabelle Beach RV Resort on Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” just outside of Apalachicola and St. Vincent Island Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Carrabelle Boat Club, a starting point for  offshore fishing expedition or cruises to the beaches of St. George Island and Dog Island.
  • Live Oak Landing, 15 minutes from Destin, Fla., with direct boat access to the Choctawhatchee Bay, Gulf of Mexico, the Intracoastal Waterway & Choctawhatchee River system.

The Pine Mountain and Carrabelle properties are now open, with Carrabelle RV Resort currently adding new features. Catherine’s Landing and Live Oak Landing are currently under construction with openings planned in mid-2010.

RVC Outdoor Destination’s website, www.rvcoutdoors.com, has been updated and contains more information on their services and properties.

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