David Garvin, founder and former chairman of RV accessory retailer Camping World Inc., has announced extensive plans to develop a unique RV destination on 965 acres along Interstate 65 in southern Kentucky.
Garvin, along with Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher and state Secretary of Commerce James Host, unveiled the plan today (March 23) for the facility six miles north of the Kentucky-Tennessee border – dubbed “Garvin’s” – in Bowling Green.
“It will be a combination of Disney World, Camping World and Bass Pro Shops,” Garvin told RV Business. “We are expecting 1.8 million visitors per year, which would make this Kentucky’s largest tourist attraction.”
“Garvin’s” will be located on more than a mile of frontage on each side of I-65 35 miles north of Nashville, Tenn., and 15 miles south of Bowling Green. As envisioned, Garvin said the multi-faceted project at an estimated cost of $53 million will feature:
* “Free range” dry camping for RVers for up to 30 days. “We won’t provide sewer or electric, but we will have a covered disposal station and it will be clean,” Garvin said. “And they will be able to fill up with purified water and propane, and there will be a brand-name fuel station.”
* The nation’s largest Camping World store.
* A 250-bay service center manned by manufacturer technicians.
* A permanent 600,000-square-foot trade show and exposition in which manufacturers would display RVs and suppliers would sell aftermarket products.
* A track where prospective RVers could test drive motorhomes and towables.
* A Museum of Recreational Travel featuring RV historian David Woodworth’s collection of antique recreation vehicles and other travel-related heirlooms.
* An IMAX theater tied into the Go RVing market expansion campaign.
* An affiliation with an adjacent campus of Kentucky Technical College offering an RV service technician’s curriculum.
* An RV sales exchange and monthly used RV auction.
Although the project is to be privately financed, Garvin said the state of Kentucky is expected to designate the area a Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) district to allow infrastructure improvements such as sewers and roads to be paid for with sales taxes generated at the site that otherwise would go into the Kentucky treasury.
“If we get everything in place, engineering-wise – and if the TIF is approved – we hope to break ground this summer with the opening in the summer of 2007,” Garvin said. “There is no real ‘finish’ to this project. As long as there is creativity around this thing will continue to develop, sort of like Disney has continued to grow.”
The I-65 location was chosen because of its high amount of north-south traffic and its proximity to I-40, an east-west expressway that threads through Nashville. “We looked at locations in California, Nevada and North Carolina, but decided Kentucky was the best place to be,” Garvin said. “It’s in the middle of nowhere, but it’s in the center of everything if you look at it from a national perspective. This point in southern Kentucky is the center of the weighted national population from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast.”
Garvin said the name “Garvin’s” was chosen for the project because of his long-time association with Camping World. “I’ve been in 200 million catalogs and flyers over the last 35 years,” said Garvin, who still resides in Bowling Green, where he founded Camping World. “My name is very well known among RVers, and we are using the name in the same fashion that Walt Disney used his name.”