The National Park Service recently issued a prospectus soliciting proposals for a 15-year contract to operate lodging and associated services in Mount Rainier National Park.
Associated services include food and beverage and retail operations at the two park lodges and at Sunrise Day Lodge, plus cross-country ski and snowshoe rental at Longmire, Paradise, and the Jackson Visitor Center. Food service is also provided at the visitor center.
The contract requires firewood sales at Longmire and nearby Cougar Rock Campground. The expiring contract was for 25 years and took effect in 1987. It was extended in 2012 for an additional year. Twenty-five year concession contracts are a thing of the past.
The park’s two lodges are historic Paradise Inn with 121 guest rooms and the smaller National Park Inn with 25 guest rooms. Paradise Inn is generally open from mid-May through early October while the National Park Inn is open year-round. Both lodges have dining facilities and retail operations. Sunrise is a day-use lodge with a snack bar and gift shop that is open from late-June to September.
The new contract will require an estimated initial investment of slightly over $3.2 million from a new concessionaire, over half of which represents personal property and inventory to be purchased from existing concessionaire, Guest Services.
The only required facilities improvement is a fire suppression system at Sunrise Day Lodge. The minimum franchise fee will be 6 percent of annual revenues. Unlike a number of other concessions being bid, the Mount Rainier prospectus includes no possessory (ownership) interest to be paid to the existing concessionaire. Concession revenues during the last three years have averaged a little under $8 million annually, split fairly evenly among lodging, food and beverage, and retail.
The proposal notes the possibility the National Park Service will undertake extensive structural and interior work on the Paradise Inn Annex that houses approximately two-thirds of the Inn’s guest rooms. In the event the work takes place, the Annex (but not the Inn) will close for 21 months beginning no earlier than mid-August of the year of rehabilitation, resulting in the concessionaire losing revenue from 79 rooms for more than one full season. The contract length will be adjusted downward from 15 years to 10 years if the rehabilitation work (and associated revenue loss) does not take place. The cost of the rehabilitation will be picked up by the National Park Service.
An additional complication for a new concessionaire is the need for support structures, including employee housing outside the park. Limited employee housing inside the park requires that the concessionaire offer transportation to and from the park.
The current concessionaire, Guest Services, has an office building, large warehouse, limited employee housing, and RV sites in Ashford, a short distance outside the park’s Nisqually (southwest) entrance. A different concessionaire would likely need to purchase these facilities in order to provide the required services inside the park. The cost of the support facilities is not included in the estimated $3.2 initial investment.
Proposals for the Mount Rainier concession are due at the NPS San Francisco office by October 16, 2012. A two-day site visit is scheduled for July 25 and 26.