Ali and Eric Rasmussen were looking for an exciting entrepreneurial opportunity two years ago. They figured Eric’s commercial real estate and capital markets background coupled with Ali’s marketing chops would be a powerful combination if they started their own business.
They hadn’t found what they were looking for until they purchased an RV during the start of the pandemic and took their young family camping.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, we could do this!’” Ali remembered. They were camping at a Kampgrounds of America facility at the time, and the more they studied the operation, the more excited they became.
The Rasmussens found their first campground in May 2021, in the tiny town of Alfred, Maine. Next came a flurry of purchases that now finds the couple owning 10 parks scattered throughout the Eastern U.S. after just a year of operation.
Their small chain of parks is called Spacious Skies Campgrounds. Spacious Skies now has two locations in Maine, two in New Hampshire, and one each in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
Buying and improving parks
The Rasmussens are a bit of an anomaly in the current campground buyer’s market, which has been flooded with “new money” from investment firms and larger corporations. Their current business model involves finding good, turnkey parks in desirable markets and then dialing up both the facilities and the service in order to bond guests to the brand as it grows.
Eric said it’s important that their campgrounds offer a range of outdoor fun activities for families, with easy access to other regional attractions.
Their Spacious Skies Belle Ridge Campground in Monterey, Tennessee, for instance, has great access to ATV trails along with a spring-fed swimming pool, on-site waterfalls and many local caves to explore. Even their “urban park,” the Spacious Skies Minute Man Campground just 45 minutes outside of Boston, offers wooded campsites and a true getaway feel for city dwellers.
Ali Rasmussen said as Spacious Skies Campgrounds grow across the country, they hope campers will see the benefits of staying with the brand and enjoying each park’s unique character while benefiting from the brand’s consistent delivery of services. Ali related that Spacious Skies is preparing to offer a new loyalty program soon that will further encourage campers to stay at their parks.
Spacious Skies Campgrounds appealing to non-RVers, too
Spacious Skies has a somewhat unique partnership with RVshare.com that allows campers to select from a wide range of rental RVs that they can either pick up from RV owners in the traditional way, or have the RV delivered directly to a Spacious Skies campground. It also offers signature Riverside Retro rental campers at its Country Oaks, French Pond, Woodland Hills and Walnut Grove Spacious Skies camping locations.
“As lifelong campers and lovers of the great outdoors, we believe that camping is one of the best ways to experience the exquisite wonder of slow-travel practices of hiking, fishing, stargazing and more in some of the most beautiful natural places in the U.S.,” said Ali Rasmussen. “Clearly, the outdoor hospitality industry is having a moment, with the popularity of back-to-nature adventures soaring. It is our mission to provide our enthusiastic guests with fun, relaxing and authentic experiences they will never forget.
“Consistency across all the elements that make up hospitality, property management, and customer experience is really best achieved when there is a direct connection between the home office and our onsite staff,” she said. “It is fulfilling to work together as one team toward the same vision, the same dream, and that positivity should be passed on to our guests in their experience with us.”
While Spacious Skies Campgrounds do cater to RVers with 30- to 50-amp service and full hookups, they also have cabins and yurts as well as tenting available at most locations.
The next steps
While both of the Rasmussens acknowledge that new campground owners often raise rates shortly after purchase, they said they carefully analyze each camping market as well as the facility to ensure campers see value in each camping stay. While some rates may go up, they vow to provide value for the type of experience they provide.
Eric Rasmussen said while purchasing 10 parks in just a year seems ambitious, he expects the purchasing pace to continue in the coming months as Spacious Skies Campgrounds looks at acquisitions throughout the country, including the American West.
Ali said the new company has been fortunate to find great team members to staff the campgrounds as well as several corporate positions. The Rasmussen’s “home office” is located in New Jersey. She said they are always on the lookout for new team members, as well as campground owners willing to sell.
The Rasmussens also “never say never” to other expansion methods, including perhaps franchising the brand in the future. But for now, they are comfortable to own each park as they methodically grow their collection of campgrounds.