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Mount Rushmore National Memorial looms over a parking lot at the facility. The Mount Rushmore Society that helps support the memorial lost a lucrative parking contract to a private firm this week.

A local charitable organization that has supported the Mount Rushmore National Memorial for 86 years will soon lose its multimillion-dollar parking contract to a Colorado-based company.

The National Park Service announced Wednesday it had selected Xanterra Parks and Resorts Inc. for a new 10-year contract beginning Oct. 15. The contract will combine the food and beverage services, merchandise and souvenir sales, and parking services at Mount Rushmore.

The new, consolidated contract will replace two expiring contracts: one held by Xanterra for food, beverage and retail operations, and the other held by the Mount Rushmore Society to manage the memorial’s parking garage.

Xanterra’s gross receipts from its existing contract were $12.6 million in 2014, according to the Park Service prospectus issued last fall. The Mount Rushmore Society’s 2014 gross receipts from parking were $4.1 million. That means Xanterra's combined gross receipts from the new contract will likely exceed $16 million.

The prospectus said the winning concessionaire will pay a minimum of 19.4 percent of gross receipts to the Park Service as a franchise fee and reserve another 0.3 percent for repair and maintenance.

“We congratulate Xanterra Parks and Resorts, Inc., and look forward to continuing to work with them in providing unique visitor experiences at Mount Rushmore National Memorial,” Mount Rushmore Superintendent Cheryl Schreier said in a Park Service news release. “At the Memorial, all visitors interact with the concession operations making the selection of a company with the qualifications and experience of Xanterra especially important.”

The Mount Rushmore Society issued a news release Wednesday afternoon that, among other things, outlined the history and success of the society's involvement with parking at Mount Rushmore and congratulated Xanterra on its new contract. 

The society funded the construction of Mount Rushmore's parking garage in 1996 by shouldering $17 million of debt. The society used the parking fees it collected to make payments on the debt, and the debt was fully paid off last year.

Over the decades, the society has raised millions more for the memorial through other fundraising efforts. The Rapid City-based society was founded in 1930 while the memorial was being carved.

Xanterra officials did not respond to Journal requests for comment by news deadline.

Xanterra has numerous contracts throughout the National Park Service system. Besides Mount Rushmore, the locations of those contracts include Yellowstone National Park, Crater Lake National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier National Park and Zion National Park.

The Park Service declined to release a copy of the new Xanterra contract until the contract's October execution. However, the Park Service said the contract will require improvements to customer flow in the food, beverage and retail area and the addition of self-pay parking stations.

The contract will also include a 50 percent discount for seniors on the standard parking rate and free parking for active-duty U.S. military members. The standard parking rate will be reduced from $11 to $10 for the life of the contract, and the parking pass will continue to be valid for one year from the date of purchase.

The new contract results from a solicitation process required by the National Park Service Concessions Management Improvement Act of 1998. The Park Service released a prospectus on Sept. 29 and accepted proposals through Jan. 13.

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Contact Seth Tupper at seth.tupper@rapidcityjournal.com

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Enterprise Reporter

Enterprise reporter for the Rapid City Journal and author of "Calvin Coolidge in the Black Hills." Receiving encrypted news tips through Peerio with the user name seth_tupper.