A long-planned expansion of Conneaut Lake Park's Camperland is scheduled to be done by a newly formed private-sector limited liability company.

At its meeting Tuesday, Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park formally approved separate lease, management services and business purchase options with Park Commons Campground LLC.

Trustees is the nonprofit corporation that oversees the amusement park's operations. Park Commons Campground LLC is a limited liability company formed to undertake the expansion with Thomas Cholak, a member of Trustees, the sole partner in Park Commons.

"This allows for Camperland's expansion sooner rather than later with a private sector partner that results in Camperland significantly larger, generates additional revenue," said Jim Becker, executive director of Trustees. Trustees have eyed an expansion of Camperland for more than two years.

The expansion, set to be done in two phases, is expected to boost Camperland's capacity by 43 percent when completed — possibly later this year.

Preliminary work already has started on the first phase to add 24 full Class A hook-up camping sites plus all necessary utility lines for both those sites and 25 drive-through full service sites planned in the second phase.

A drive-through site allows a trailer or recreational vehicle to be driven straight through rather than having to back into or out of the camping site.

Right now, Camperland has 31 tent sites, 22 water and electric sites, 56 full Class A hook-up sites with water, electric and sewer, and five primitive cabins.

The limited liability company has been recruiting investors to loan Park Commons LLC the funding to carry out the expansion.

Investors sign loan documents to lend the LLC the money for a minimum of five years. Investors will be repaid an interest rate of 7 percent per year, Cholak said.

Funds to repay the loans will come from camping fees with funds set aside annually to repay investors their initial investment plus interest.

The projections are for the LLC to pay off the loans with interest within a range of seven to nine years, Cholak said. 

"We believe the numbers are here then to make it feasible for the Trustees to buy it," Cholak said of the project.

The business purchase option agreement signed with Trustees would allow Trustees to purchase the improvements after the fifth year. The business purchase option agreement has a 10-year extension, giving the Trustees the option to purchase the improvements during the extended period.

"We've devised a financially feasible way to expand Camperland now," Cholak said. 

Roughly $100,000 is needed to carry out the initial phase of the expansion.

"Long-term, we're trying to develop non-weather dependent revenue for Conneaut Lake Park," said Bill Bragg, chairman of Trustees.

Those interested in potentially investing in Park Commons LLC should contact the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County, Becker said. The Economic Progress Alliance is the county's designated lead economic development agency. 

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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