Hall of Fame Clears Hurdle

The RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana, has reached agreement with its creditors on a financing plan that officials say will keep the hall and its museum open indefinitely.

A debt of $4 million, with the majority of it due in the middle of this year, had threatened to close the hall and its museum, which preserves the history of the recreation vehicle and manufactured housing industries.

“The RV/MH Hall of Fame will live on,” said Bill Garpow, the organization’s chairman of the board. “Our glorious building will remain open for years to come. Our history will continue to be preserved.”

Garpow credited the generosity of the family of Robert (Boots) Ingram, the deceased founder of Teton Homes, with saving the hall. It was Ingram’s loans to the hall that enabled it to purchase a large collection of vintage RVs and build a facility to house them, but that debt and a loan from First Source Bank in Elkhart saddled the hall with financial obligations it could not meet.

The new financing plan reduces monthly payments on the loan obligations. First Source Bank lowered its interest rate and restructured its agreement. The Ingram family forgave overdue interest, agreed to forgo payments and interest on its loan until after the bank is fully paid in 2016, and agreed to donate one dollar for each two dollars of loan principal that is retired each month by prepayments or by the scheduled payments that will begin in August 2016.

In addition, the Ingrams announced a “Let’s Pay off the Bank” gift, promising  $100,000 in matching funds if individuals will donate that amount to the hall by the end of this August. 

Darryl SearerUnder terms of the agreement between the Ingram family and the Hall of Fame, Darryl Searer, who has 50 years of experience in the RV industry, becomes president and chief operating officer of the hall. Searer is a member of the Hall of Fame and also has served on the organization’s board and as treasurer. He will work on a non-compensated, volunteer basis, and the existing hall staff will remain in place.

Searer said the financial restructuring is just the first step in efforts to bolster the Hall of Fame. “We are now going to go out to the other pioneers and leaders who have built their lives around this industry and ask them to follow the inspiration of Boots Ingram and his family and make long-term contributions to this wonderful treasure that showcases who we are and how we help Americans discover their country.”

The RV/MH Heritage Foundation was formed in 1972 to preserve the history of the recreation vehicle and manufactured housing industries. In 2007, it opened a 56,000-square-foot building in Elkhart that includes a hall honoring industry leaders, a museum housing vintage RVs, a showcase of current models, and the world’s largest collection of literature and photos involving RVs and manufactured housing.


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