For Kampground of America Inc. it’s the ultimate form of flattery: A half dozen municipalities in six states are considering opening KOA campgrounds as a way of attracting more overnight visitors to patronize local businesses and area attractions.
It’s something the Billings, Mont.-based campground franchisor hopes to encourage. “KOA has less than a 2% failure rate,” said Walter Preble, a special franchisee consultant to KOA President Jim Rogers. “(Cities) look at it and see it’s a proven method of doing business. They’re looking for a sure bet. They get assistance in building. They get assistance in operating. They get assistance in marketing.”
Although recent published reports have highlighted efforts by the towns of Rusk, Tex., and Minturn, Colo., to open KOA campgrounds, Preble says there are several other cities in Texas, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota and the Carolinas that are also in various stages of applying for KOA franchises. Preble said he couldn’t disclose the names of the other cities at this time because they still are in the early talking stages.
Rusk officials recently told the Jacksonville Daily Progress in Texas they believe they are in competition with other Texas towns that also are seeking KOA franchises. Preble declined to identify the other cities, but said KOA would make a final decision on whether to award the Rusk franchise in late October.
Rusk has a number of qualities that make it an attractive tourist destination, Preble said, including proximity to Hogg State Park, which honors James Stephen Hogg, the first native-born governor of Texas. Located about 125 miles southeast of Dallas, Rusk is also a convenient stop for travelers driving between Dallas and Houston or for travelers in central Texas who are headed east to Shreveport, La. And its elevation is high enough to provide pleasant weather for RV enthusiasts even in summer.
If KOA approves Rusk’s franchise application, construction could begin on 200 acres of city-owned land later this year, with the campground opening by late summer or fall of 2004. The campground would initially have 100 campsites and be expandable to 200 or 400 more. The campground would include meeting halls and other facilities to accommodate small rallies and family reunions.
Meanwhile, the town of Minturn, Colo., near Vail, plans to break ground later this fall or in the spring on a KOA campground, which also would be built on city-owned land, Preble said. Preliminary plans call for the Minturn KOA to include 62 campsites and 15 cabins. In most cases, Preble said, cities that go into the campground business typically set up private corporations to run their campground businesses.