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Scott Walsh, a longtime fan of camping and Clemson football, was looking forward to enjoying two of his favorite activities when he followed the Tigers to Auburn a few years ago.
Unable to find a vacancy at a campground in the area, he eventually paid to park his motor home in an open field — and noticed many others willing to do the same, even though the site wasn't particularly close to the Auburn campus or the nearest interstate highway.
"I think they had 600 campers there, which I thought was incredible," Walsh said. "If people are paying to stay in an open field, we think there will be interest in staying at a park with full (electric and water) hookups."
With that in mind, Walsh, along with business partners Richard Bennett and Walt Cannon, recently purchased 42 acres of land near Pendleton — about five miles from Clemson's Memorial Stadium and four miles from Interstate 85.
The group hopes to create 200 campsites at "Clemson RV Park" before the Tigers' Sept. 1 game against Furman. It is the first of seven home games on the Clemson schedule, and Walsh envisions a festive atmosphere on those seven weekends, aided by live music and a catered Friday meal beneath a 20-by-40-foot canopy.
The campground will offer a seven-weekend package ($235 a weekend), and although stays will be limited during most of the year, a full-season football package will allow campers to leave a rig on the site beginning the weekend of the Furman game through the Nov. 24 finale against South Carolina.
The football-oriented RV park reflects the longtime loves of the 51-year-old Walsh, who began attending Clemson football games as a child in 1974 and enjoyed camping with his family even before that.
"I love camping. When you're camping, you can go 10 miles away from home and feel 500 miles away," Walsh said. "We go camping at Twin Lakes (campground, on Lake Hartwell), and my friends who aren't into camping don't understand that. But if you want to put away a stressful week, camp at a local campground. You'll meet some great people."
Having acquired the necessary permits, Walsh and his partners now face the challenge of ensuring electric, water and sewer lines are installed within the next five weeks.
Walsh plans to eventually build 405 RV spots, but is aiming for 200 for the first phase this year.
Although the park will be centered around the football season, Walsh sees business potential 12 months a year. The park is convenient to the T. Ed Garrison Arena, where horse shows and other agricultural events are booked at least 40 weekends a year, and the close proximity to I-85 could make it attractive for short-term stays.
He also sees recent successful ventures near other locations with a rabid fan base. Bulldog RV Park, near the University of Georgia, and a park near the University of Alabama have been successful in selling RV sites instead of renting them.
Walsh prefers renting the sites, in part because of his love for camping.
"We know there are other camping possibilities in the area, and we hope this one will be another alternative," said Walsh, who along with Cannon is co-owner of Eastern Crane and Hoist in Greenville County. Bennett is a local property developer whose current project is The Grove near the RV park.
Fifteen campgrounds and RV parks are located within an hour of Clemson, and most are full during Clemson's home-game weekends.
"And if they're playing really well, we're even fuller," said Oconee County South Cove Park staffer Mandy Holbrooks, referring to an overflow lot that is sometimes used during home-game weekends at the 86-site campground.
"We're fully booked for that first game on Sept. 1, and have been for a long time," Holbrooks said. "Even when they're not playing well, we're busy when they're at home."
Follow Abe Hardesty on Twitter@abe_hardesty or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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