ELKHART — Construction work is in full swing for a three-phase expansion project for the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum.
Plans for the project were announced in 2016, and now work has started on several acres east of the current facility, northeast of Elkhart near the C.R. 17-Indiana Toll Road interchange.
The Elkhart County Board of Commissioners helped the expansion plans move forward at its meeting this week by approving the organization’s site development plan in its business park to allow for building and parking.
The first phase of the project is underway. This consists of a year-round 22,500-square-foot pavilion, which will include heating and air conditioning, and an outdoor rally and show site with room for several hundred RVs.
This phase is scheduled to be completed by September, according to Darryl Searer, president of the RV/MH Heritage Foundation, who said he expects additional business from this phase to bring in around $250,000 a year.
Phase 2 calls for a 60,000-square-foot event addition accommodating as many as 3,500 people for a sit-down dinner.
It will also include two soundproof, drop-down walls that will allow for three 20,000-square-foot events at the same time, Searer said.
The goal of the project is to make sure the Hall of Fame is ready to handle any event that may come its way.
“We have a big show here every September that’s called the RV Dealer Open House for manufacturers like Thor and Forest River,” Searer said. “Thor has historically held their show here, so it’s needed for that purpose.
“Also, the event center that we have right now, we have a number of people who’ve been coming back year after year that we’re starting to outgrow the capacity that we had, so this gives us the additional capacity,” Searer continued. “We only have about 17,000 square feet under one area and the new pavilion will be 20,000 square feet of usable space. We also needed additional parking area so it will serve as an additional parking lot for us for the events that we’ve been having right along.”
Commissioner Mike Yoder said he believes the expansion is going to be a positive economic benefit for Elkhart County by attracting more groups to the area.
“The expansion of the event center is much needed as it seems we do not have enough event center space in the county, which is a good thing,” Yoder said. “The creation of the RV parking area will facilitate the RV Dealer Show that we have in the fall as well as offer additional opportunities for rallies. This will offer space of similar size to what’s at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds so we’re increasing our capacity to bring more visitors to the community.”
Searer said Phase 2 is on hold. The organization will need to raise funds before it can start on the project. However, he said he hopes construction for the second phase will begin within the next year.
Phase 3 is currently under wraps and will be unveiled at a later time.