New Contract for Development at Grand Canyon’s South Rim

The National Park Service (NPS) announced in September 2015 that it had awarded a contract worth approximately $1 billion to Xanterra South Rim LLC to develop new mobile food trucks, updated lodges, and possible valet services for visitors at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. The terms of the contract were to be fulfilled over a 15-year period.

The South Rim is well known among the public for its historic lodges and breath-taking views of the canyon, and it is the canyon’s most popular destination. Xanterra and other companies have operated a variety of services in the South Rim area for decades. Xanterra’s existing contract was scheduled to expire at the end of 2015. The president of Xanterra, Andrew Todd, stated that his company was ready and enthusiastic to begin the new developments to enhance visitors’ experiences at this great natural wonder of North America.

The details of the new contract—which must be reviewed and approved by Congress before being implemented—include a number of provisions designed to help the park personnel better handle the large crowds during periods of peak attendance. In addition to the planned mobile food trucks,  patio dining at the famed Al Tovar Hotel was to be expanded. The implementation of a valet parking service at the hotel was to be considered by Xanterra to aid in managing the heavy visitor traffic.

The contract called for upgrades and modernization to the busy Bright Angel Lodge. The Maswik South Lodge was to be demolished to make room for a new lodge with 90 standard rooms and 30 special rooms equipped with kitchenettes. The contract also stipulated the construction of a new quick-service restaurant.

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Problems in the previous business relationship between Xanterra and Grand Canyon National Park had become apparent in 2014. In October of that year, the company sued the NPS, claiming that park officials had proposed a contract that gave unfair advantages to a competitor, risking the loss of money by Xanterra. The company had also wanted to trademark the names of certain hotels and other popular sites at the park.

Xanterra agreed to the new contract even though the document did not resolve either of these concerns in the company’s favor. In the contract, the NPS clearly stated that the names of park sites are the property of the government agency. Overall, however, Xanterra was pleased with the new contract, so it agreed to the terms.