The National Park Service announced Wednesday that Yosemite Hospitality, LLC, a subsidiary of Aramark, will receive a 15-year contract for visitor services in the park. Park officials say the deal is valued at $2 billion in gross revenues over the life of the contract.
Park spokesperson Scott Gediman says while changes in concessions are common in other national parks, this deal is unique.
Gediman: "This is the largest single concession operation in the National Park System."
Pending final approval of the deal, Aramark will begin operating park concessions in March of 2016, ranging from the iconic Ahwahnee Hotel to gift shops, bike and raft rentals and food service operations.
The deal with Aramark marks a break with the previous concessionaire, Delaware North, which has run the operations in the park since 1993 under its DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite, Inc subsidiary.
In a written statement Yosemite Superintendent Don Neubacher praised the new contractor.
Neubacher: “We’re very excited about bringing on Aramark to operate our primary concessions. Aramark brings tremendous resources to the table and has extensive experience in operating concessions at many other national parks. We believe they’ll be a great partner with us at Yosemite as we work to implement the vision of the Merced River Plan.”
The park service says Aramark will continue to operate the Yosemite Valley shuttle system free-of-charge, and will take other measures to reduce water, electricity and fuel use, provide more food options for visitors and reduce traffic in Yosemite Valley.
The move is a big change for Yosemite. Only two companies have held the contract for food and lodging in the park over the past century, DNC and its predecessor Yosemite Park and Curry Company, which ran the operations for 94 years.
Gediman says most park visitors won't notice a change between the two companies. But in at least two areas, the transition could present some problems. Last year as new companies prepared their bids for the concessions contract, DNC raised the issue of its intellectual property rights for some of the park's most famous locations. DNC says it owns trademarks for iconic park features, like "The Ahwahnee" and "Curry Village" as well as the company's website and Half Dome logo. DNC says it purchased the names from the Curry Company in 1993 and now values them at $51 million. The company says any new concessionaire should be required to purchase the names from DNC.
Gediman says details of the transition between the companies still needs to be worked out, including the trademark issue.
Gediman: "There's no question that there is assets, intellectual property that Aramark is compelled, if they do sign the contract, to purchase. However, the questions are the valuation of the assets and also, are some of them legitimate, those will need to be worked out."
Current Delaware North employees also face and uncertain future, though Gediman says in other cases, new concession companies have retained at least some of the existing workforce.
Gediman: "It's up to them to decide who they want to hire but in transitions like this and in other parks, we would expect Aramark to look at some of the current employees."
Gediman says the company now has 30 days to sign the contract, which will be followed by a 60 day public review process, mandated by Congress. If approved Aramark will begin operations in Yosemite in March, 2016.
DNC also operates a privately-owned lodging facility outside of the park boundary, the Tenaya Lodge resort in Fish Camp on Highway 41.