Finding companies to run concessions at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky is proving difficult for the National Park Service, which in mid-June issued a ninth modification to the original concession prospectus for lodging, transportation, retail, and food services.
The original prospectus was issued in December 2014 with a new concessionaire expected to be selected by late this summer. The concession is currently operated under a temporary extended contract by Forever Resorts, which inherited the operation when it absorbed former concessionaire National Park Concessions.
The series of modifications corrected errors, answered questions submitted by interested parties, and made several major changes in an effort to make the concession operation more appealing to bidders. The biggest change was to extend the term of the contract from 10 years to 15 years, thus allowing an additional five years to recapture the estimated $2 million initial investment required on the part of a new concessionaire.
Additional modifications include the permission for limited retail space in the park’s visitor center, and eliminating the requirement for temporary food and beverage service during the period the hotel will be closed for renovation. The NPS will also permit the concessionaire greater retail space, including a presence in the dining area. In a particularly interesting modification, the NPS will consider allowing the construction of new lodging, restaurant, and retail facilities.
A major requirement of the initial prospectus has not changed, however, and that is the demolition of the Heritage Trail wing of the main hotel. This will result in the loss of 38 guest rooms that NPS has judged too small. It also claims the rooms have poor lighting and sound-proofing, and emit an odor the NPS and concessionaire have not be able to abate. This loss of rooms may be behind the offer to consider the possibility of allowing a new concessionaire to build additional lodging.
While the initial prospectus indicated a concessionaire would be selected by late summer, the modification requires that offers will be received in the NPS Atlanta office until September 9. A site visit is scheduled for July 8.