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Parking fees vary with the length of time RVers plan to remain at the Self-Park. Those just looking for a short break can pay as little as $20 for ten hours, which can be extended for additional hours at $2 each. A full 24 hours costs $39. Those who plan to stay longer, to visit family or tour the area, can pay $32 each for two to six 24-hour days, or $32 per day for seven to 28 days.
Turntine says he’s still fine-tuning the fee system, along with other specifics. The park is designed to be inexpensive to run, with minimal staff and upkeep. “We structured it this way from the first turn of the shovel,” he says.
Turntine, who is a builder and developer with interests in commercial and residential real estate, was able to build the RV Self-Park on land he already owned along I-44, which is also the route of Historic Route 66 in this part of Missouri. “The location is perfect,” he says, “about a mile from the interstate overpass. Far enough away so you don’t get all the truck noise. We’re a couple of minutes from a Flying J, a Wal-Mart and a Cracker Barrel, whatever you need, and you can come and go.” The Self-Park has no gate, but does have parking sensors that allow the opera- tor to tell which sites are being occupied.
Everything about the park is high tech and as automated as possible. Turntine says they have developed new tech- nology to use in the Self-Park. “Sometimes we’re using devices from other genres and applying, redirecting them to our needed outcomes,” he says. “The entire concept itself is ‘patent pending,’ ‘trademarked’ and so on. The package of automated parking as we are doing it has not been done before anywhere we can find.”
All that automation didn’t come cheap. “At this point it looks like we are on track to hit about $30,000 per site not counting the land itself,” Turntine says. “It will get cheaper as we perfect the systems and learn from this prototype development. Of course we have built this park from the start to support this concept, so when we begin to retrofit an existing park there will be adaptations needed to do things at each parking site that we are doing from central distribution points now. In the long run, we want to be able to do everything we do in both types of scenarios. And, frankly, the demand is there for retrofitting an exist- ing park, so we have planned for that from the get-go too.”
While Turntine doesn’t anticipate expanding the 24-site Self-Park at Exit 225 off I-4, he does plan to build more of the automated RV parking facilities. “We believe this busi- ness model will lend itself to smaller parks.... and more of them spread out instead of a large congestion of RV’s in
one place. Too many at one place could cause some prob- lems that we do not want,” Turntine says. “This concept is meant for shorter term use, not long term use or anything that seems like camping.
“For example, if we find our parks are selling out often
or maintaining high occupancy averages, we will simply build another a few miles away, at the next exit perhaps - instead of expanding this one, not unlike other franchise systems. For example McDonalds or Quick Trip don’t expand their stores to increase volume, they build another one at the next exit or down the highway a few miles away.”
Franchising the concept is definitely in Jim Turntine’s plans, down the road. Some franchisees, he anticipates, will want to retrofit an existing park with some of the automated features he has developed. “I can make an educated guess at this time for a new RV Self-Park cost- ing between $25k and $30k per site. Retrofitting the RV Self-Park model into an existing park will be much less expensive because of existing distribution infrastructure, roadways, etc. already in place. A retrofit site may be just a few thousand dollars each.”
However, the retrofit plan would likely be restricted by cri- teria that existing parks might not have in place. Possibly only some parts of existing parks might qualify for conver- sion to a Self-Park facility, Turntine believes.
“I believe there’s a need for this, based on the 99 percent positive feedback I’ve had so far,” he reports. “It could help the RV industry, and RVers as well, by making it more convenient to use an RV more often.
“We aim to make RVing more than easy. We want it to be stress-free, no matter what the time, what the weather. Guests won’t even have to talk to anyone if they don’t want to.”
 Jim and Marla Turntine, owners of RV Self-Park on Route 66 in Sullivan, Missouri. —

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