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RV/MH Hall of Fame Knocks Debt Down to $1.8 Million

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RV/MH Hall of Fame President Darryl Searer

The RV/MH Hall of Fame took another step toward eliminating its debt last week, paying off a loan and renegotiating the interest rate on its mortgage payment, according to Hall of Fame President Darryl Searer.

“We’re down to a simple mortgage now. All the other stuff has been cleaned up and it’s a pretty good feeling,” he said.

Last week, the Hall paid off a 12-year, $600,000 note it had borrowed two-and-a-half years ago to pay for the David Woodworth antique RV collection.

Three-and-a-half years ago, the organization owed $1.16 million to Woodworth for the purchase of his collection. Searer and the Hall’s board of directors renegotiated the debt to a $600,000 cash settlement, which was borrowed from 1st Source Bank in Elkhart to pay Woodworth.

The payment of the note leaves the Hall with a $1.8 million mortgage loan, for which Searer also renegotiated the interest last week, from 4.5 percent to 3.5 percent, which he says should save the Hall more than $50,000 during the course of the loan.

Searer volunteered as RV/MH Hall president in March 2012, when the total debt was $5.5 million. In those days, the Hall owed money to the bank, the city, Woodworth and the Ingram family, he said.

“We had four major problems as far as debt was concerned, and today we’re down to a simple mortgage at the bank,” he said.

And though the loan completion is a step in the right direction, Searer stressed that there is still work to do on the organization’s $1.8 million in debt, and the Hall continues its debt elimination challenge campaign, a competition between the RV and manufactured housing industries to pay off the mortgage in five years.

Each industry is being challenged to raise $1 million, and thus far, the MH industry has raised $615,000 in gifts and pledges.

The RV side has reached about $100,000, though Searer noted that the Hall receives income from the RV industry for various events and property rental throughout the year that is used to pay down debt as well.

Adding Equity

As he spoke in a phone interview last week, Searer watched a Caterpillar, dump truck and back hoe make progress on a land overhaul project that will open up about 8 acres of land on the east side of the Hall of Fame’s Elkhart property.

The land, which is on the east end of the Hall of Fame grounds, includes a trench and a mound of dirt that remains from the construction of the Hall in 2007, Searer said.

“We’ll have almost 8 more acres of land that will be usable that has not been usable in the past because of trees and shrubs growing on it, and it will all be usable by the end of October,” he said.

Adding land to the Hall’s grounds, which are leased throughout the year for events that have included the Elkhart Open House, car shows, concerts and a carnival, should pay for itself, according to Searer.

He cited growth in the RV industry, specifically, saying that demand for space at the Elkhart Open House continues to rise.

“Anything you can open up here on Executive Parkway will pay off in the long run,” Searer said.

For those who would like to make a contribution toward the Hall’s debt elimination challenge, payments can be made at www.rvmhhalloffame.org, by mail or phone at 800-378-8694.  If paying by check or money order, make payable to the RV/MH Hall of Fame.

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