Contract still in limbo at Grand Canyon National Park

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - According to the Associated Press, the National Park Service failed to obtain any bids that met its terms for a 15-year concessions contract.

The contract currently held by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, is worth an estimated $1 billion and expires Dec. 31 and cannot be extended.

The park has already made several amendments to the contract since August 2013. According to the Associated Press, the changes were meant to make the deal more appealing which was stated by the agency in written court documents.

Changes included a revision to the employee housing and a revision of the franchise fee, which is the amount owed by the winning bidder for improvements made by Xanterra.

Xanterra filed a lawsuit against the park on Oct. 7, stating the contract the park offered them did not provide adequate housing for their employees and nearly tripled its franchise fee, giving unfair advantages to its competitor.

According to the Associated Press, the park plans to revise the proposal before putting it out to bid again.

Concessionaires run the majority of hotels and restaurants at the Grand Canyon's South Rim, including the historic El Tovar Hotel and mule rides taking visitors into and out of the Canyon.

Grand Canyon Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said concession contracts are designed to create competition for businesses operating within the park. Because the park did not receive responsive bids for the long-term contract, the park decided a temporary contract was necessary.

Uberuaga said the park is hopeful the short-term contract will be signed to allow the park and concessionaire time to reach a favorable agreement.

Uberuaga has said a temporary contract will ensure that most services now under Xanterra's contract won't shut down on Jan. 1.

According to the Associated Press, park officials have not responded to their requests for comment. A hearing in the case is set for Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Colorado.

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