RV Hall of Fame expansion mirrors rise of RV industry

NOW: RV Hall of Fame expansion mirrors rise of RV industry

ELKHART, Ind. -- There may be no better symbol of the RV industry's turnaround than the RV Hall of Fame.

Back in 2011, the RV Hall of Fame was millions of dollars in debt and in danger of closing.

But now, the museum is thriving and is now working to become the heart of the RV industry in the RV capital. 

"Elkhart is the RV capital of the world and many people travel to Elkhart County to buy an RV," says Matt Rose, the Director of Recreational Vehicles for Recreation Vehicles Indiana Council.

Twice a year, the RV shows at the Hall of Fame shine a spotlight on the industry: striving to show off the newest vehicles and achievements. 

"Our RV shows, year afer year, continue to see increased traffic and with presales as well. We've set record sales at RV shows all over the state," Rose adds. 

He says it just shows how much business is booming and growing.

So is the Hall of Fame.

"It's a big expansion," says Darryl Searer, the Presiden of the RV Hall of Fame.

That's a bit of an understatement. 

"A rally site with a 20,000 square foot pavilion. We'll have approximately 4,000 spaces to hold rallies. That will be phase one," he explains. "Phase two will be adding a 60,000 square foot event center. It'll have drop down walls that will allow three 20,000 square foot events to go on at the same time."

Searer says it's a miracle, given the trouble the museum was in not too long ago. 

"If we had to go back about six years, I volunteered to help the Hall of Fame that was $5.5 million in debt. Virtually there was no way to pay for it," he says.

Tough decisions had to be made: decisions Searer wasn't ready to commit to.

It all involved handing the keys over and giving up. 

"They were going to put the Hall of Fame in an abandoned supermarket building. And I didn't like that," he says.

But six years later, they're seeing success. 

The Hall of Fame was able to climb out of debt, thanks to generous donations and pledges from both the RV and Manufactured Housing industries. 

Searer calls the museum the shining star of the industry.

And with the added expansions to the museum, it's proof that Elkhart is back and better than ever.

"We're preserving the history and we're honoring the people who have contributed to the success to both industries," Searer says.

The museum expects to be debt free by the end of 2018. 

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