Tucked away in the mountains, just 17 miles from State College, Pa., home to Penn State University, the family-owned Bellefonte/State College Kampgrounds of America (KOA) Holiday had a record year in 2021 and continues extensive upgrades and expansions for 2022 and beyond.
According to Casey Dillon, grandson of the original founder who started the business in 1969, the business is well capitalized and taking advantage of this booming economy.
“We currently have 105 RV sites and 18 cabins, with a total of 144 sites with our tent areas,” said Dillon. “This year was the busiest season we’ve ever had and I’m sure there are lots of other owners that will tell you that as well.”
Dillon and his mom and co-owner, Barb Saulsbury, believe in continuous improvement and service expansion of the property as being key to its success.
“We’re currently adding a bike park with a pump track, and we are starting a new phase of construction soon,” added Dillon.
Dillon noted that pump tracks are bicycle features that are popping up more at campgrounds for teens and young adults to use with bikes and skateboards. They run over undulating asphalt and concrete structures and are meant to keep a rider’s momentum going once they begin the track.
“It’s a circle of banks, dips and hills,” he said. “It has been a significant investment.”
Work was set to wrap up on that project in either October or November.
In 2019, the park added 30 new RV sites, a new bathhouse and a solar field.
“The solar field was designed to supply 106% of the power needs for the campground,” Dillon explained. “It feeds back to the grid and then we have a net energy meter reading agreement with the utility. Every kilowatt hour we supply to the grid gets deducted from our other energy expenses. I don’t think it quite hits 100% currently. It’s a lot of storing credits in the winter and then not making as much as we use in the summer and using the credits from the winter to supplement.”
Bellefonte opens the first week of April and closes after the last Penn State University home game in November.
“We have all the basics in service from water, electric, sewer, Wi-Fi and cable at pretty much every site,” Dillon said. “We have the pool, splash park, a jumping pillow and a sports recreation area. We do meals on Fridays and Sundays. We have a stocked fishing pond and every weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day I have an activity schedule that we run through the weekends.”
He stated that the park is geared towards a demographic of families with teenagers and preteens. There is also a smaller section called a Bicycle Playground that is designed for little kids as well.
“I feel like last year the industry got a whole bunch of new campers and no one was planning very far ahead,” Dillon said. “This year, people are still trying to do that, but everything is sold out. It’s having an impact and now people are really trying to book ahead more.”
Well capitalized at this point in time, Dillon is already planning a new major expansion for the future.
“We’re actually having a surveyor come out sometime this fall, and we have some more land that I want to survey to consider developing more RV sites,” he stated. “We want more of the larger pull-throughs, but that’s a whole process.”
Dillon said the last expansion took over three years from the survey to permitting and design.
“The construction only took eight months, but the rest of that was getting my sewer plan and my public water supply permitting, along with a plan for my stormwater runoff,” he explained. “Add the design work and moving dirt, that type of thing, and it shows that you just have to plan way ahead.”