National Park Service Issues Prospectus For Glacier Bay National Park Concessions

The concessions contract for the Glacier Bay Lodge is up for bid. Top photo of lodge exterior and bottom photo of Fairweather Range from lodge's boat dock by David and Kay Scott, middle two shots by Kurt Repanshek.

The National Park Service recently issued a prospectus requesting bids for providing lodging, food service, retail, and boat tours in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The proposed 10-year contract is to become effective January 1, 2014.

The concession has been operated since 2004 by Aramark Parks & Destinations, which would seem to be among the likely bidders on the contract.

The property is in the southern portion of the park at Bartlett Cove, approximately 10 miles from the small community of Gustavus. Visitor access is primarily by scheduled air service on Alaska Airlines that offers summer flights from Seattle via Juneau. The Alaska Marine Highway offers Juneau - Gustavus service, although not daily. The concessionaire is required to provide ground transportation between the lodge and Gustavus.

Glacier Bay Lodge is approximately 50 years old, having been constructed by the National Park Service in 1966. The lodge has 56 guest rooms connected by boardwalks to the main building that houses a lobby, restaurant, registration area, gift shop, and NPS visitor center. Eight guest rooms and three separate eight-room dormitories are utilized for employee housing.

The concession operates from Memorial Day through Labor Day - approximately three months - each year. Occupancy rates at the lodge average 70 to 80 percent and total revenues from all sources for 2012 were just short of $2 million. The largest share of revenues - approximately 40 percent - are generated by boat tours that are a required part of the contract.

The NPS estimates an initial investment required of a new concessionaire at approximately half a million dollars, two-fifths of which is represented by deferred maintenance. The buildings are owned by the NPS, so no leasehold surrender value is required of the concessionaire. However, the contract requires payment of a minimum 1 percent of gross revenues as a franchise fee and 3 percent of gross revenues into a repair and maintenance reserve. Deferred maintenance of $200,000 estimated as part of the initial investment is not covered by the reserve and maintenance reserve.

March 26, 2013, is the last date for concession proposals to be received by the National Park Service. The walk-through of the property occurred last August when the concession was open.

As an aside, we found our own three-night stay at Glacier Bay Lodge to be a rewarding experience. We took the day-long Glacier Bay boat tour, an evening whale-watching tour, and enjoyed several hikes. On the return flight to Seattle we stopped over in Juneau for two nights and enjoyed scouting out Alaska’s capital. We toured the Capitol building, took an exciting sightseeing flight over the Juneau Icefield, watched cruise ships arrive and depart, and, perhaps best of all, visited the tasting bar at the Alaska Brewing Company.