The Business: If sports are a religion to you, then this business venture might be heaven sent: a summer baseball camp for boys aged 8 to 16 that combines batting practice with Bible reading. With weeklong sessions and weekend clinics running from spring through the first week in August, this rural Christian camp draws a small but loyal following, mainly from southwestern states. (About half of each summer's 250 or so campers are repeat visitors.) Founded in 1993, the camp features six fields, five batting cages, and four air-conditioned cabins on 50-plus acres. The facilities are in all-star shape, and there's room for construction if a buyer wants to expand. Although the current owner is ready to retire his number, his team of 12 to 14 (coaches, maintenance workers, and cooks) likely would play ball with a new owner.

Price: $650,000

Outlook: As any good coach knows, there's more than one way to win a game. The current spiritual/sports model, which includes Bible distribution and weekly visits from a camp chaplain, could support a growth strategy. However, a buyer would need to do a lot more than pray for occupancy levels to rise above the current 30% to 40%. That means aggressively advertising in all venues that reach Christian families. The camp could also boost revenues by adding off-season weekend sessions (there are now two) and leasing camp facilities to religious and nonprofit groups. Another option, which the current seller says he will not prohibit, is getting out of the "God game" and concentrating solely on sports, which might broaden the camp's appeal. In any case, a buyer could score points by adding other sports.

Price Rationale: There's only one way to strike out on this deal -- by paying too much for a company whose cash flow can't cover a buyer's financing costs, let alone support a paycheck. Current rules of thumb suggest that camps sell for two times revenues (or about $130,000, in this case). Because the facility is owned, the real estate value should be figured in as well. The owner estimates the land's value at $293,000, which conceivably could push the price tag up to $420,000.

Pros: Owning a baseball camp may be nearly as much fun as attending one. Just be sure that you figure out a marketing strategy that will help potential campers -- and their parents -- find you.

Cons: Unless you're prepared to make the kind of big changes necessary to turn this kids' camp into a grown-up business, you might be better off sticking to Little League.

FINANCIALS
Gross Revenues Recast Earnings*
1997 $76,614 $1,286
1998 $78,215 $6,300
1999 $66,283 $12,011

*Before interest, taxes, depreciation, and owner's compensation.

Inc. has no stake in the sale of the business featured. The magazine cannot confirm the accuracy of financial or other information offered by the seller. Inquiries should be directed to Rich Hunter, Affiliated Business Consultants, at 719-540-2200.


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