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Missing the Mark

August 1, 2020

Amenities Mismatch: Lessons in Park Development

As I stated in my last blog, I have been traveling the US looking at parks and preparing audit reports for clients. It has been an interesting trip.

Recently, I toured a spectacular property. The roads were wide and paved, sites were level with concrete or pavers, it had a pool and a hot tub, the grounds were immaculate, and the price was right. All sites were full hookup, the sewer and electric were new, and the exterior elevations of the buildings were stunning. The husband and wife that owned it clearly took pride in what they had built, and they were sinking.

This park was the perfect example of missing the mark. I was there in Mid-July. This was peak season in this area of the country and the lack of energy was palpable. No kids, very few adults, no one in the pool or the grand clubhouse.

The owners were well intended, but totally mis-calculated the amenties needed, and the market. This is a family friendly area, and the park had no playground or summer activities program. There was nothing to attract a family with youngsters to the location. Money spent on some luxuries could have been spent on a splash pad, a jump pillow, mini golf or something to attract the type of visitors who come to that area.

It was also in an area that a bit too far off the beaten path-just far enough away from the attractions that it was a difficult drive. There was a competitive set that was closer to the resorts and catered more to the type of market that visits the area. It lacked guests, an identity, and as funds ran out, some of the last touches were left underwhelming.

The bathhouses for example, looked like they belonged at a YMCA. After the, "Wow," of the entrance and grounds, one would have expected tiled floors and walls, upgraded countertops, and nice roomy showers. None of this materialized once you entered the bath house. The pool furniture was subpar, and a clubhouse that looked like it belonged in a five star resort, was filled with plastic furniture.

I left there very sad for the owners. Their intentions were good, and their park beautiful, but it is going to take a large investment to put in the amenities needed to draw the right people to that park. Missing the mark and not building to the market can cause even a well capitalized park to come to a screeching halt, or worse yet, fail to launch in the first place.