E-mail Story   Print Story
  Comments (15) Total Thursday Apr. 24, 2014
Employees, Locals ‘Shocked’ At Glacier Concession Decision
Glacier Park Inc. loses contract after 32 years in the park
People walk past a Red Bus marked with a Glacier Park, Inc., Transportation logo parked outside Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park. The National Park Service has selected Xanterra Parks and Resorts, Inc. as the new concessioner for Glacier National Park. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
LAKE MCDONALD – Wednesday dawned like any other August morning at the Lake McDonald Lodge. Guests were checking into their rooms, visitors were perusing the gift shop and tourists were climbing aboard Red Buses bearing the name “Glacier Park Inc.,” the hospitality company that has operated Glacier National Park’s concessions for more than three decades.

Usually at this time of the year, managers are already preparing for next season. But for the first time since 1981, there will not be a “next season” inside the park for GPI. On Aug. 13, the National Park Service announced it had selected Xanterra Parks & Resorts to provide lodging, retail, transportation and food and drink services inside Glacier starting in 2014.

The news came as a shock to locals and employees of the company that started in 1981, but has roots going back to Glacier Park’s earliest days.

“Our initial reaction was shock,” said GPI President Ron Cadrette. “We’ve been doing the concessions for 32 years and we thought we had put together a good bid. We thought that we would win it.”

GPI had a 25-year concessions contract until 2006, when it began operating under annual extensions. Late last year, NPS began seeking bids for a 16-year concessioner contract. The new contract requires the concessioner to pay the federal government a minimum franchise fee of 1 percent of gross receipts, which is usually $18.5 million annually. It requires the establishment of a repair and maintenance reserve and a Red Bus rehabilitation reserve. It also has a long list of requirements and improvements, including the replacement of lodge furnishings throughout the park; the remodeling of select guest rooms at the Many Glacier Hotel and Lake McDonald Lodge; improvement to food and beverage services at Heidi’s in Many Glacier and the Two Medicine Campstore; improved sustainable and healthy food options; the addition of two accessible tour buses to the Red Bus fleet; and the establishment of administrative and support facilities outside of the park.

All concessioner bids were due on April 16, 2013. NPS and a panel of experts outside of Glacier National Park analyzed the bids and eventually selected Xanterra’s.

“(GPI) understands that the local Park Service people did not make the decision and that the selection process was objective. We congratulate Xanterra,” Cadrette said. “We’ve been privileged and honored to work with the Park Service for all these years.”

From 1910 to 1914, Louis Hill and the Great Northern Railway commissioned the construction of nine chalets, the Glacier Park Hotel, Many Glacier Hotel and Prince of Wales Hotel. In 1914, the railway established the Glacier Park Hotel Company to manage the lodges. That same year, Roe Emery founded the Glacier Park Transportation Company with the financial backing of the White Motor Company. It was the first park in the country to offer motorized tours.

Following World War II, the Glacier Park Hotel Company was renamed the Glacier Park Company. In 1955, it absorbed the Red Bus fleet and transportation duties. Two years later, Great Northern turned the company over to Donald Knutson, who ran a construction company and owned hotels in Minnesota and North Dakota. In December 1960, Don and Gail Hummel and Don Ford purchased the company for $1.4 million and renamed it Glacier Park, Inc. Hummel sold the company in 1981 to Greyhound Food Management of Phoenix, Ariz., which eventually became the Dial Corp. In 1996, the company split into two entities: The Dial Corporation and Viad Corp., which became GPI’s parent company.

The decades long relationship with Glacier National Park and the long corporate history is what made many people assume GPI was a shoo-in for a concessions contract extension.

“To be quite honest, I was surprised (GPI lost),” said former Superintendent Mick Holm. “Based on my interactions, the park has had a great relationship with GPI. They did a good job.”

Diners finish their meals before the change of breakfast to lunch menus at Russell's Fireside Dining Room in Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

It was the same reaction of many GPI employees the morning of the news broke at the Lake McDonald Lodge, most of whom did not want to talk on the record about what happened: “It’s still fresh for all of us,” one employee said.

Others were curious about what potential changes the new company would bring and what type of neighbors they would be. Jim Galvin of Kalispell has spent his summers on Lake McDonald since 1960 and said GPI was respectful of the private landowners along the lake.

“GPI has always been a really good neighbor. Whenever I needed something, I’d go over to the maintenance shop and they’d give me a tool, knowing I’d bring it back the next day,” Galvin said while working on his lakefront rock wall. “I don’t know anything about the new guys.”

While GPI lost the concessions contract, it still owns the Glacier Park Lodge, St. Mary Lodge and a handful of other properties inside and out of the park. Cadrette said 60 percent of the company’s business is outside of Glacier National Park and that in the coming weeks and months it will readjust how it operates. He added that the company is also looking at opportunities to expand locally and in the region. He said it was too early to know if any of the company’s 145 full-time employees will lose their job.

GPI plans on keeping the properties it owns outside of Glacier, including the Red Bus maintenance shop in East Glacier Park. That means Xanterra may have to find a new location to store and maintain the iconic fleet of 33 Red Buses.

“We have no intention of selling or leasing outer park properties,” Cadrette said, adding that GPI will need them to support its own operations. “(But) I foresee us having the same relationship with Xanterra that we’ve had with all of our partners, we’ll be professional and good neighbors.”

Cadrette said GPI would work with Xanterra in the coming months to ensure a smooth transition. Hours after the announcement was made on Aug. 13, Xanterra President Andrew Todd issued a statement saying the company was honored to be selected as the new concessioner and that it was ready to provide a high-level of service to Glacier National Park.

Holm said even if the Red Buses bear another name on their doors next year, some things would not change.

“The visiting public will show up next summer and the beds will be made and the food will be good, just like it always has been,” he said. “I’m sure the transition will be seamless.”
On 08-23-13, debbietant commented....
Philip Anschutz, the Republican California billionaire that owns Xanterra is also a major player in the oil industry and the development of fracking in North Dakota and Montana.  That might explain his interest in oil and mineral rights in the Park.
Kellyn Brown
Kellyn Brown3h
Former pro skier has plans for an academy for young adults looking to train in the outdoors http://t.co/YFOI9pdVVf http://t.co/R8NCamjqUD
Dillon Tabish
Dillon Tabish3h
Former pro skier has plans for an academy for young adults looking to train in the outdoors http://t.co/YFOI9pdVVf http://t.co/R8NCamjqUD
Molly Priddy
Molly Priddy37m
@FABarnhill @EmilieRSaunders Call me when you've started organizing your own hands. "Left pinkie." "Left ring finger" etc.
Tristan Scott
Tristan Scott33m
@ClimbGlacier @hike734 @erichpeitzsch @bradlamson Need to compile list of impressive climbing/enduro feats in MT. Msg me with ideas.
Flathead Beacon
FB Headlines2h