b'Q&A CONVERSATIONSBY BEN QUIGGLERecreational Adventures Company Continues to Invest in 13 Parks WhileLooking Toward Future GrowthA lawyer by trade, Richard Cutler purchasedthe Mount Rushmore Kampgrounds of Amer-ica (KOA) at Palmer Gulch Resort in Hill City,S.D., in 1972. At the time, the park was nothingmore than a dude ranch that had once beenhome to a golf course. After a year of owning the ranch, Cutler andhis partners developed the areas first camp-ground at the site and so began the formationof Recreational Adventures Co. (RAC). Cutlers son, Kent Cutler, also a lawyer, isnowRACspresidentandchairmanoftheboard. He operates the Cutler Law Firm inSioux Falls, S.D., a business he ran with his fa-ther for more than two decades.Richard CutlerRAC in its nearly 50-year history has gonefrom operating one park to 13 parks spread across the U.S., mainly in northernstates. At first, Richard Cutler linked his Palmer Gulch park to the Holiday Innbrand, when the well-known hotel chain was trying to enter the campgroundsector. But that failed, and now all RACs parks are under the Kampgrounds ofAmerica Inc. banner.Besides the Palmer Gulch KOAwhich operates as RACs headquartersRACsother properties include the Rapid City/Black Hills KOA Holiday in Rapid City,S.D.; Monroe Co./Toledo North KOA Holiday in Petersburg, Mich.; Memphis KOAJourney in Marion, Ark.; Fredericksburg/Washington D.C., South KOA Holiday inFredericksburg, Va.; Washington D.C./Capitol KOA in Millersville, Md.; HarpersFerry/Civil War Battlefields KOA Holiday in Harpers Ferry, W. Va.; New York CityNorth/Newburgh KOA Holiday in Plattekill, N.Y.; Astoria/Warrenton/Seaside KOAResort in Hammond, Ore.; Seattle/Tacoma KOA in Kent, Wash.; Leavenworth/PineVillage KOA in Leavenworth, Wash.; Cody KOA Holiday in Cody, Wyo.; and theSteamboat Springs KOA Holiday in Steamboat Springs, Colo. RAC also operates a federal concessions contract at the Prince William ForestPark in Prince William County, Va., according to Kent Cutler. He said RAC owns two other business ventures, including the Keystone Presi-dential Wax Museum in Keystone, S.D.It features wax figures of every U.S. president, he said. The company also operates the Camper Reservation Center, which Cutler saidhelps owner/operators take reservations during the winter months. We provide the service to about 120 KOA parks, but we are willing to help outnon-KOA parks as well, he said. It helps owners because they dont have to worryabout taking reservations all winter long. It has grown in popularity. Even withthe advent of online reservation systems, there are still a lot of people who preferreserving a campsite over the phone. It isnt like reserving a hotel room. Peoplewant to make sure they are getting the right site, with the right amenities.RAC has seen record revenue each of the past 10 years, with a double-digit in-crease in Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA). Kent Cutler spoke with Woodalls Campground Management (WCM) aboutthe growth of RAC, changes it has noticed in the outdoor hospitality industry, andthe future of the company. Below is our edited conversation.WCM: Yourfatherstartedwitha velopers were still paying crazy moneyduderanch,transformeditintoa forpropertydowninFlorida. ThenKOA,andthenexpandedthecom- there were a couple of others that didntpanys presence throughout the U.S. work out so well that we got rid of, likeWhat spurred your father to buy addi- a KOA outside D.C, which I dont thinktional parks and continue to expand is even in business anymore, and onethe companys footprint?in Branson, Mo. at one point in time,Kent Cutler: His first purchase after too. Those properties just didnt workPalmer Gulch was our Rapid City park, out the way we wanted them to.which is about a half-hour drive from WCM: Obviously, you have a deep re-PalmerGulch.Mydadboughtthat lationshipwithKOA.Whatdoyoucampground really to protect our busi- value most about that relationship?ness at Palmer Gulch. As time passed Cutler: Its been a good relationship,and things started to begin working and theyve provided us excellent sup-well, then he began acquiring addi- port, and its a recognizable brand. Wetional properties. think we bring a lot to KOA as well, par-Besides the 13 properties we own ticularly with some of our resort prop-now, we have three properties that we erties,likePalmerGulch,whicharebought over the years we no longer someofthemorebeautifulcamp-own. One was in Pine Island, Fla., and grounds you will find anywhere.we sold that at a good time before the On occasion, we do have some stick-real estate market collapsed, and de- ingpointswithKOA. Theycurrently14 -April 2020Woodalls Campground Management'