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Guide to Building or Expanding Summer Camps

In the U.S., the business of summer camps is an $18 billion industry, providing memory making experiences for over 14 million people every year. Summer camps provide participants a chance to make friends, develop skills, and discover new interests.

Despite the cold winter weather, now is the time to start thinking about the return of those warm summer days and begin planning and designing the construction, improvement, or expansion of summer camp facilities, so you can submit orders for camp infrastructure and amenities in time for the next camp season.

Considerations for Planning a Summer Camp

If you are thinking about joining the over 14,000 summer camps that currently provide unforgettable experiences for millions of people, here is a guide to building or expanding a summer camp.

Summer Camp Programs and Goals

Once you decide on the goals of your summer camp, you can plan the programs that you’ll provide. For example, some camps focus on arts and crafts and some cater to horse-related activities. The possibilities are endless! When you design classes, activities, and instruction, structure them to support your summer camp’s goals and philosophy.

Create a Summer Camp Business Plan

Write a comprehensive summer camp business plan for all aspects of your proposed camp, making it as detailed as possible. Include an explanation of what your programs will be, as well as how you plan to staff the camp and manage operations, facilities, equipment, costs, and risk. You should detail the first three to five years of your summer camp operation in the business plan, and explain the philosophy of your camp and the culture that you want to foster. Include your goals and the actions that you plan to take to achieve them.

Know the Laws and Regulations for Operating a Summer Camp

In some states, the health department oversees summer camp operations; and in others, the cities and counties monitor them. The American Camp Association (ACA) has accreditation requirements that also serve as standards for summer camps in some states. These rules and regulations govern things such as food safety, toilets and handwashing facilities, and sleeping and living quarters, among many other requirements.

For example, in the state of Washington, the Department of Health is the governing body. In Washington, staff who work in food service need a food handler’s card, the state requires criminal background checks for camp staff, and regulations include guidelines for pay rates. The ACA provides a database with the laws for all 50 states, including the District of Columbia.

Transportation to and from Summer Camp

You may need to transport your campers to and from the summer camp, to off-site events, or even within the camp itself, if it is a large campus. If you plan to use vehicles in your organization, you we recommend including storage and maintenance facilities for them in your summer camp business plan.

Insurance for Summer Camps

Summer camps are entrusted with the safety of the participants, and they must make efforts to ensure that. Camp operators should also consider protecting themselves against liability claims. Accidents can and will happen, especially with activities such as archery, horseback riding, and swimming.

Consider insurance for your employees as well, such as worker’s compensation and health insurance. The camp property will need coverage, and if your camp has vehicles, they should be insured. Many insurance companies provide various policies designed explicitly for summer camps.

Buildings and Facilities for Summer Camps

Your summer camp will need buildings for activities and food service, and if it is to be an overnight camp, you will need housing and hygiene facilities. Depending on the type of summer camp you operate, you may need to consider buildings for the following:

  • Shelters for first aid and medical care
  • Vehicle storage and maintenance facilities
  • Equipment and supplies storage facilities
  • Barns, round pens, and riding arenas for animals such as horses
  • Canoe and boat enclosures
  • Group gathering space and shade structures
  • Stage covers and event pavilions

The Benefits of Fabric Structures for Summer Camps

Whether you need to start a camp from scratch or are expanding an existing camp, fabric buildings have many benefits when compared to traditional construction. WeatherPort® fabric structures from Alaska Structures® offer flexibility and efficiency that traditional buildings can’t match.

WeatherPort has supplied engineered fabric structures and buildings to camps all over the world. Jim Roche, founder of Adventures in Youth Mission, has used WeatherPort structures for 15 years at his High Adventure Camp in southern Colorado. The seven WeatherPort structures that they use remain setup year-round at 9,000 feet in elevation. It’s not uncommon for the camp to get 150 to 200 inches of snow and to see winds in excess of 60 miles per hour. Despite the harsh conditions, the WeatherPort camp structures are still standing. “It’s a testament to their quality,” says Jim.

Mr. Roche first came to know WeatherPort products when he worked with a guide service in Alaska. When he was called to his mission to build a n adventure camp for kids, he remembered the quality of the camp facilities up north. “People in the lower 49 have no idea about the conditions” in Alaska, but he does, and he knew that WeatherPort could handle it.

Camp Structures Designed for Minimal Foundation Requirements

Camp is intended to be an experience that puts campers in touch with nature and keeping the surroundings as natural as possible goes hand-in-hand with that goal. The minimal foundation requirements of WeatherPort fabric structures mean camp operators can assemble and safely anchor their camp structures onto virtually any level surface, including: dirt, gravel, sand, concrete, footers, pilings, or wood platforms with minimal impact to the surrounding environment. Traditional buildings and camp structures made from brick and mortar, steel buildings, or wood structures require more pre-site construction and foundations, disrupting the surrounding environment.

For camp operators wishing to provide a near zero environmental impact, WeatherPort engineers a raised flooring system that allows camp structures to be setup on uneven terrain and leveled. Ask a WeatherPort building specialist for more details on our raised flooring system!

Modular Building Design for Seasonal or Permanent Summer Camps

Construction time is much shorter with fabric structures than brick-and-mortar buildings. WeatherPort camp structures are easy to set up and take down, without special equipment or expensive construction crews. For camps that operate in the summer only and for camp operators with more than one location, the modular building design or our portable camps is a smart choice. Alternatively, you want permanent infrastructure, you can leave WeatherPort structures in place year-round, and save more money (and time) with less maintenance than other building systems.

Custom-Designed and Energy-Efficient Camp Structures

Fabric structures from WeatherPort are custom-designed to meet your specific camp facility or camp structure needs. Whether you need sleeping quarters, kitchen space, a dining hall, or a nurse’s station, our fabric structures can be designed and purposed for any building solution. All WeatherPort fabric structures are designed according to your specifications, and engineered to meet local and international building codes for safety. So, you can have peace of mind knowing your summer camp staff and guests will be kept safe in the event of a sudden storm or other adverse weather condition.

The WeatherPort Yurt Series are the highest-quality camp structures available. WeatherPort has taken the yurt concept and converted it to a modern 21st century building system, engineered with a high-strength metal frame system that employs a long-lasting tensioned membrane to provide the ultimate yurt or camping experience! Our aluminum-framed Yurts are available in the following diameter sizes:

  • 12’ Yurt
  • 18’ Yurt
  • 20’ Yurt
  • 24’ Yurt
  • 30’ Yurt

Additionally, we also have a steel-framed Yurt option. An optional loft system is a great solution for increasing interior living space. Our yurts are free-span structures, allowing for maximum use of interior space. Unlike yurts that utilize a wood-lattice system for structural support and obstructs, a WeatherPort yurt can be custom designed with glass sliding windows, clear plastic windows, or screen windows and offer unobstructed views of the surrounding environment.

Looking for a larger camp structure? The WeatherPort HGB Series of fabric buildings is a versatile and ruggedly durable building solution that is perfect for staff and guest housing, kitchen and dining facilities, activity centers, boat houses for canoe storage, equipment and on-site storage facilities, among many other possibilities. The HGB Series is available in widths up to 30-feet and custom designed to any length. The ‘soft’ gable design of the HGB Series provides a standard side-wall height of 6-feet. Additional side-wall height can be specified for a taller structure and to fit your camp structure needs. Create a covered entry or porch area by asking a WeatherPort building specialist about our recessed end-panel options!

Nearly every feature of WeatherPort camp structures can be customizable! Unlike other building manufactures that make a handful of models and in specific sizes, and with an even more limited number of options, when you choose to work with WeatherPort, our experienced staff will assist you in custom designing a one-of-a-kind building system that perfectly complements and pre-existing camp infrastructure or to design camp structures for a new summer camp location!

Choose from a large selection of window and door options, flooring systems, and plug-and-play lighting and electrical systems1. WeatherPort offers a wide range of fabric colors and patterns, or create your own! Add your camp logo, specific lodge numbers or names, or designs to any building system. WeatherPort is one of a couple companies in the United States with very high-end printers that can print directly to tensioned fabric membranes in near-magazine quality resolution.

Increase the energy efficiency of your camp structures with one of our many proprietary insulation systems. Should the night time temperatures drop, know guests will be kept comfortable and safe inside their camp structure! We design, engineer, and manufacture many of the support systems to increase comfort, including our insulation systems. Easily attach and add HVAC systems to any WeatherPort camp structure for additional temperature control. Reduce energy usage during the day with our skylight material. Specifically designed as a translucent material, our skylight material gently diffuses sunlight to create a bright interior, eliminating the need for lights during the day.

Durable and Long-Lasting Camp Structures from WeatherPort

We engineer our architectural membranes with a proprietary blend of materials designed to withstand extreme cold and hot temperatures. WeatherPort membranes have a higher resistance to abrasion than other fabrics, will not rot, are mold- and mildew-resistant, and exceed the fire safety requirements outlined in the California Code of Regulations for membrane structures. Our tensioned membranes are UV stabilized (not coated) for superior resistance to prolonged exposure to high solar loads, allowing our building systems to be used at high elevations or in tropical and desert climates for extended periods of time.

Our lightweight aluminum frames are ideally suited for highly portable fabric building applications, including summer camps that operate seasonally and do not wish to keep their structures set up year-round or to be used at a different location in the winter months. We also offer camp structures with a high-strength galvanized steel frame. Depending on the building size and building codes for your particular area, a WeatherPort building specialist will be able to assist you with selecting the best frame system material.

For camps located in coastal areas with sea spray and salt air, or in climates with high humidity, we offer powder coating for an additional level of corrosion resistance. WeatherPort has the in-house capability to powder coat our frame systems in a number of different colors.

As Mr. Roche put it, “the WeatherPort product is really good.” The structures have outlasted the estimates he was given by the building specialist he worked with. “They have been standing for 15 years, and are still good,” Jim says. “It is one of the few [companies] that exceed their promises… service was above and beyond expectations.”

For more information about Adventure in Youth Missions, their High Adventure Camp, or other programs and services, please visit Adventure in Youth’s website.

Prepare for the Coming Summer Camp Season

Even though spring is here, now is the time to start planning for and designing your summer camp. National Camping Month will come and go before we know it. Use the calm time before the summer frenzy starts to consider using a WeatherPort fabric building system. Our fabric systems are custom-designed to meet your camp structure needs, so you can be ready for the coming spring and summer season! Don’t wait until the weather turns nice — contact us today and avoid having to rush or lose out on any summer fun!

WeatherPort’s friendly building specialists will help you select and design the perfect camp structures for your camp.

WeatherPort® is a brand of high-quality fabric buildings from Alaska Structures®. If you are interested in learning more about our fabric buildings and remote camp systems please contact us by calling +1-907-344-1565 or completing our online form to request a consultation.

¹ A certified electrician may be required to connect the electrical distribution panel to shore power or local power utility. Please check with your local or state requirements.

Alaska Structures
Alaska Structures® is the world's leading provider of engineered fabric building and turnkey camp systems. Our modular buildings are proudly made in the U.S. and designed to meet area-specific wind and snow loads required by local codes or the International Building Code (IBC) for safety. No other fabric-building provider comes close to matching our level of expertise or experience.

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