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DNC headquarters in Yosemite Village

Delaware North Companies headquarters in Yosemite Village.

On the Trail of Yosemite's Monopoly Concessionaire

Note: The main article follows below the updates in red.

Updates 10/8/15 - The National Park Service and Aramark signed a new 15-year contract for Yosemite, which takes effect March 1st. Read more... Delaware North Companies has sued NPS for violation of trademark rights, claiming it should be paid millions of dollars for the famous names historically used in the park that it now claims to own. Arguments were heard by a court in September. Read more... 6/17/15 -- National Park Service offers Yosemite contract to Aramark, not DNC. Read more...

Updates 1/27/15 -- Bidding closed on the contract January 21, 2015. The winning concessioner should be announced within the next few months and will start its operation in March of 2016. In December, the Park Service modified the proposed new contract changing the franchise fee. Originally set at 8.6% of gross revenues, that figure was dropped to 8% . The reduction in franchise fee percentage amounts to the government losing about $12 million over 15 years. Read more... 1/15/15 -- The National Park Service has amended the contract up for bid, increasing the out-of-pocket cost for any concessionaire (other than DNC) if it wants to take over in Yosemite: “The following exhibit summarizes the estimated initial investment to be made by the Concessioner in 2016 dollars, which is projected to be $40,100,000, consisting of the purchase of the Existing Concessioner’s personal property, inventory, supplies, start-up costs (staff hiring, training, etc.) and working capital (investment needed to cover expenses incurred in advance of offsetting revenues). “Other Property (other than Inventory)” includes $3.5 million for the Existing Concessioner’s intangible property; and $4.6 million for leased transportation equipment that the Existing Concessioner has represented it will purchase prior to the expiration of the Existing Contract, all of which was not previously identified.” See Note #4 below for a link.

Update 12/24/14 -- Delaware North claims that it "owns" the names of some Yosemite's most iconic places, and must be compensated for $51 million in "intellectual property rights" if its concessions contract in not renewed. Among the names DNC says it owns: Ahwahnee Hotel, Badger Pass, Curry Village, the Wawona Hotel, and Yosemite Lodge. Read more...

Updates as of 10/1/14 -- According to an article appearing recently in National Parks Traveler, NPS awarded Delaware North Companies a 10-year contract in March 2013 to operate the concessions at neaby Kings Canyon National Park. Read more... Note: The article incorrectly states that DNC was the sole bidder on the Yosemite contract in 1993. Also, an Acadia National Park concessioner who lost out to another company in bidding last fall claims the bid evaluation was a "sham," in a lawsuit filed against NPS. Read more... In December 2013, a federal court ruled that NPS acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" in awarding a concession for ski touring at Grand Teton National Park. However, the court refused to disallow the award, ordering NPS to simply reimburse the bidding expenses of the loser, Eco Tour. Read more... In February 2014, NPS released the final version of its Merced River Plan, which calls for many changes that will affect Yosemite's park concessions. Read more...

Update 11/12/11 -- The National Park Service has announced a 4-year extension of its current contract with DNC, now set to end January 31, 2015.


By Rosemary Regello

It has been more than 15 years of water under the bridge (now 21 years) since the National Park Service awarded  Delaware North Companies its most coveted prize: the contract to sell lodging, food, gas and other services in Yosemite.

At the time DNC acquired the “Crown Jewels” of the park system  as one congressman put it the company had never held a wilderness park concession.  Nor had it ever operated any resort or lodgings in the United States. Its universe revolved around fast-food concessions at ballparks and airports, as well as  pari-mutuel betting on greyhound dog races and other gambling enterprises.   A spokesman for the company, in defending the award, reminded the Los Angeles Times  that DNC had catered the last three presidential inaugural balls.(1) It was a revealing statement.  By all accounts, politics figured more prominently into the equation than park service administrators were letting on.

But DNC's near century-long entrenchment in the greyhound industry should have placed it at loggerheads with the NPS mission to protect and preserve wildlife from the outset.  According to animal rights advocates, thousands of jack rabbits and other critters from the wild are sacrificed annually as training inducements for the racers, who themselves live unhappy lives locked in cages. Before rescue groups were organized in the 1990's, most were destroyed or sent to testing laboratories when their track careers ended at age three.

DNC greyhound racing logo DNC greyhound racing logo

greyhound locked in cage photo:

Yet dogs were the last thing on anyone's mind when the brouhaha over the Yosemite contract erupted in December 1992. A month before the first Bush Administration left office, Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan joined an NPS evaluation committee in declaring DNC the only bidder to meet the criteria set forth in the  park prospectus. Environmentalists found the decision hinky, coming just 17 days after the committee sat down to review some 50,000 pages of documentation submitted by six finalists. The process should normally have required several months, suggesting that either the evaluators were speed readers on steroids, or the fix was in.  

In addition, DNC was not the top money bidder.  That distinction went to long-time parks contractor TW Recreational Service Inc. (now Xanterra).  Also in the running was a consortium of private and nonprofit concerns formed specifically to administer the 15-year, $1.5 billion contract.   The Yosemite Restoration Trust Services Corporation combined the talents of such disparate outfits as the Walt Disney Company, the San Francisco Exploratorium, Rockresorts, American Youth Hostels and The Nature Conservancy. The group raised $7 million in capital, and like TWRS, offered to contribute a higher percentage of its profits to the government than DNC.(2)  

Consequently, The Wilderness Society filed a lawsuit challenging the decision.  That was thrown out, but  the firestorm of controversy made its way up to Capitol Hill, where the House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing in March 1993.  "I think we want to look at it very carefully," Rep. Bruce Vento of Minnesota told the Washington Post following the NPS announcement.  “This is one of the crown jewel parks, and it makes a lot of dough." (3)

All the eleventh-hour maneuvering, however, would be for naught.  Like the Chaco Canyon sun dagger aligning with its spiral on the Autumn equinox, DNC nailed up its shingles right on schedule, Sept. 30,1993. Thereafter, the Buffalo-based conglomerate settled in for its long winter’s nap.

Information presented in this commentary has been compiled from newspaper articles and other previously published sources. Footnotes are located at the bottom of each page.

Alas, the concessions contract is set to expire again on September 30, 2011. Bidding on the next 15-year cycle is due to start soon, although even so routine a task as issuing a prospectus is not without drama here. In January, NPS announced it was postponing  the April release date, adding only that the process would occur later in 2010. (4) 

There's certainly cause for anticipation.  As it currently stands, the concession amounts to a breathtaking monopoly.  At Yellowstone and Grand Canyon,  NPS farms out service contracts to multiple firms. Not Yosemite.  The receipts of all park hotels, lodges, restaurants, cabins, retail shops, grocery stores, gas stations, in-park bus tours, ski resort operation, rafting center, stables, bicycle stands, auto repair garage, dog kennels, golf course and now even a mountaineering school inevitably get deposited into one bank account.  And since DNC is a company privately held by one family, it's under no obligation to publicly disclose its earnings.

Plans for new casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York DNC

Delaware North's latest "racino" is under construction at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens N.Y.   The complex will include a 184,000-square-foot gambling floor, 4,500 video gambling terminals, and "at least 300 hotel rooms", according to a company press release.  State  officials say they awarded DNC the contract  because it offered the most money up front.

Beyond transforming Yosemite into a company town over the past decade and a half, billionaire Jeremy Jacobs, Jerry Jr., et. al. have acquired the historic Tenaya Lodge and other hotels perched along the various routes leading to the land of enchantment.  In 1998, the firm also snagged the concession for nearby Sequoia National Park.

If all that weren't enough to make competitors and local area business owners ponder, “What have those park rangers been smoking?” there are also links to organized crime to consider. A news search of DNC’s previous moniker, Emprise Corporation, brings up plenty of interesting reading, but few people are aware of the connection. Jacobs changed the name in 1980, no doubt hoping to cover  tracks he and his father tramped down in decades past.  Both Louis Jacobs and Jeremy's brother Max were named as unindicted co-conspirators in a1972 racketeering case, yet the extent of criminal associations stretches far beyond a single transgression or time frame. And DNC's reigning monarch apparently rode shotgun through it all.

Continued on Page 2


This article was orignally published July 27, 2010 and revised many times afterward

The author has worked seasonally for the three top national park concessionaires, including DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite, Aramark and Xanterra.  

1.  "Yosemite Pact Given by U.S. to Stadium Firm”.  By Maura Dolan. Los Angeles Times
December 18, 1992.   | Return

2.  "Yosemite Concessions Contract.”  Proceedings of the House Comm. On Natural Resources. March 24, 1993. ISBN 0-16-041759-7   | Return

"Hill Controversy Looms On Yosemite Concession."  By Don Phillips. The Washington Post 12/18/92.  | Return

Solicitation  for proposals for a new Concession Contract to provide hospitality services including Lodging, Food and Beverage, Retail, Auto, and Other Services within Yosemite National Park.  Solicitation Number: YOSE004-16. Retrieved 10/1/14.   | Return

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