RVC Outdoor bringing high-end amenities to RV vacationers

by Michael Sheffield [via Memphis Business Journal]

RVC Outdoor Destinations is preparing to open a high-end outdoor destination in Hot Springs, Ark., in February, the latest location of a new concept for vacationing in the great outdoors.

Founded by developer Andy Cates five years ago, RVC has invested more than $25 million in acquiring and developing land in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Cates says the goal is to provide “RVers” and campers with an “outdoor destination” experience that allows them to enjoy nature as well as the comforts of a high-end hotel. RVC’s properties include modern cabins with Wi-Fi, pools and coffee bars.

“People want to enjoy nature, but that doesn’t mean they’re fired up about a tent with no air conditioning or not being able to buy a beer, wine or get Wi-Fi,” Cates says. “We’re going after an industry that is years behind the customers because they want more.”

Cates says the company is investing cash in the projects to eliminate debt and get deals done quicker.

A Memphis native, Cates was an associate for Crow Family Holdings in Dallas before helping establish Viceroy Investments LLC, a commercial real estate acquisition and asset management firm in Dallas.

Cates returned to Memphis in 1999 to develop the $20 million Soulsville Revitalization Project. He is also a minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Cates and his partners launched RVC with a property it acquired in Pine Mountain, Ga., last year. The 50-acre Pine Mountain site, located one hour south of Atlanta, was RVC’s “test kitchen” where the company built cottages, 200 RV slips and heated and air conditioned tents with glass ceilings called yurts.

The Hot Springs location sits on 400 acres and will have 20 cottages, five yurts and 130 RV slips. The company currently is developing a new property in Asheville, N.C., and Cates says it is scouting other locations in East Tennessee and Texas.

RV slips at RVC’s locations range from $39 to $45 per night. Yurts, which include Wi-Fi and hotel-quality beds, run $40 per night; cottages, which include full kitchens, cost $125 to $189 per night.

The amenities include swimming pools, a group lodge with big screen televisions and a Nintendo Wii gameroom.

RVC enlisted Memphis-based Jones + Fleming Architects to design the prototype for Pine Mountain.

John Jones, the firm’s principal, says RVC’s goal was to develop a signature image.

“In the past, RV parks were like submarine farms where everyone was packed in like sardines,” Jones says. “RVC gives customers a view and enjoyment without being crammed in next to their neighbors.”

The RV market, according to industry statistics, has grown about 7.5 percent to 8.5 million people in the last few years. While the economy has diminished air travel to tourist destinations, RV owners continue to travel, says Yale Spina, a principal with RVC and an RV owner who has traveled to more than 27 states.

Spinna says the company is offering a consistency for RV owners that is lacking at the typical RV communities. RVC’s menu includes a la carte offerings ranging from Wi-Fi to coffee and convenience stores that include wine and beer.

Cates says the intent is to have locations around the country.

“We’re not working on this to do six properties. We’re trying to build a killer foundation, which we’ve done quietly for four years,” he says. “We don’t claim to have it all figured out, but we have the capacity for another $25 million plus. We’re a startup that is well capitalized and passionate about what we’re doing.”

by Michael Sheffield [via Memphis Business Journal]