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Delaware North loses contract for hospitality at Yosemite

Delaware North, the Buffalo-based hospitality and concessions giant, has lost the lucrative contract to operate hotels, restaurants, stores and other services in Yosemite National Park.

The National Park Service on Wednesday awarded Aramark a contract for rights worth up to $2 billion over 15 years to manage concessions at the well-visited park in central California.

Delaware North, which has held the Yosemite concessions contract for 22 years, had sought to continue in that role.

“Throughout its tenure as the park’s primary concessioner, DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite Inc. provided quality services and unforgettable experiences to millions of visitors,” Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher said in a statement. “We appreciate all of their work.”

A Delaware North official in Buffalo deferred comment to the company’s Yosemite-based spokeswoman, Lisa Cesaro, who provided a statement Thursday.

“Although we are disappointed that Delaware North at Yosemite was not selected to continue its decades of service in Yosemite National Park, we would like to congratulate Aramark on being awarded the Yosemite concession contract. Delaware North has a passion for national parks, and we remain committed to our Yosemite operation, providing quality hospitality for park visitors through the contract period ending Feb. 29, 2016,” the company said.

Delaware North’s original, 15-year contract at Yosemite had been extended annually. The company took in $146 million in gross revenues last year at Yosemite, where it employs 1,800 full- and part-time workers in the peak summer season and 1,100 in the winter off-season, according to the Park Service and the company.

While different vendors split up the contracts for food, lodging and other services at most national parks, Delaware North handles everything at Yosemite except camping, the Ansel Adams attraction, and a small market on the grounds.

For that reason, the contract is the most valuable in the national system, according to the Park Service.

Delaware North has annual revenues of $3 billion from its portfolio of sports teams, gaming, resorts and concessions contracts. The company still has contracts through its subsidiaries for in the Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Shenandoah and Olympic national parks.

Aramark is a Fortune 500 company with $14.8 billion in annual revenues that serves hospitals, businesses, sports venues, prisons, parks and other facilities in 21 countries.

Delaware North and the National Park Service remain embroiled in a fight over the rights to the names of the hotels, lodges and other attractions the company operates at Yosemite.

The company had insisted that if the Park Service selected a replacement, the new operator must buy the rights to use the names from Delaware North at a price of up to $51 million. Park Service officials agree that the contract with Delaware North covers some intellectual property. The points of dispute are whether the names of the attractions belong to Delaware North and how much the trademarks and other intangible assets are worth.

The Park Service contends that the names of the Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village, Badger Pass Ski Area and other well-known properties are key pieces of the heritage of the park, which receives 4 million visitors annually and, at 1,169 square miles, is roughly the size of Rhode Island.

“The issue at this point will need to be worked out between Delaware North and Aramark, should they decide to accept the offer,” Scott Gediman, a spokesman for the Park Service at Yosemite, said in an interview.

The new contract would begin March 1, and the Park Service expects the two companies to work together for a smooth transition. Gediman said he could not say how many bidders sought the Yosemite contract.

Yosemite is known for its distinctive Half Dome and El Capitan rock formations and has a long history. Land for Yosemite, which joined the national system in 1890, was set aside by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864.