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Xanterra Holds Onto Grand Canyon Contract

Grand Canyon
Laurel Morales
In 1980 Grand Canyon officials submitted forms to consider 94 percent of the park for the wilderness protection. They're still waiting on that designation.

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Xanterra Holds Onto Grand Canyon Contract

Xanterra Holds Onto Grand Canyon Contract

Laurel Morales

El Tovar was built in 1905 to look like a Swiss chalet perched on the Grand Canyon's south rim. For the hotel's centennial Xanterra gave it a $5 million renovation.

Grand Canyon officials announced Thursday that Xanterra will continue to provide lodging, food, bus and mule rides on the South Rim for at least another 15 years. The contract is worth $66 million a year in gross revenue. 

Xanterra has maintained historic hotels and restaurants at the Grand Canyon for over a century.

Last year, the park owed the long-standing concessioner $157 million for building repairs. At the same time, the contract was up for bid. That repair bill scared away many prospective bidders. So the Grand Canyon started paying down the debt by borrowing from other parks and cutting some of its educational programs.

Until recently, the concessioner paid only 3.8 percent in franchise fees to the park. Under the new contract Xanterra will pay at least 8 percent.

Grand Canyon officials hope the increased fee will help them pay back their loans from other parks, restore cut programs and fix a leaking water pipeline.

REALTED: Grand Canyon Debt Could Cause Cuts

Laurel Morales was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2011 to 2020.