What’s A Name Worth, Anyway? Apparently, It’s Worth 12 Million Dollars

When you think of iconic places, the name goes with the location. Be honest, do you call it Willis Tower or do you still call it the Sears Tower? Names tend to stick even when they’re no longer accurate. I still will call the Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World by its old name, Disney-MGM Studios.

When a place changes names, it’s confusing. There are times when it’s understandable to rename a location when re-branding because you’re trying to leave behind the past and start new. I don’t see anyone complaining about them changing the name of the Milford Plaza in New York to the Row NYC.

But iconic hotels don’t change names often. The name is part of the history of the location. There better be a good reason to mess with that.

And a lawsuit isn’t a good reason.

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Located in Yosemite National Park, there are several hotels and campsites with names that go back to when the locations were opened back in the 1920s.

These include Camp Curry/Curry Village, the Wawona Hotel, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, and the iconic Ahwahnee Hotel.

In 1993, the Delaware North took over running the park concessions from the Yosemite Park and Curry Company (who ran them since they were built). As part of the deal, Delaware North had to buy all tangible property rights, which they did.

In 2014, the National Parks Service asked for bids on a new 15-year contract to run the concessions in the park. That’s when Delaware North informed the NPS that they were the owners of the names for the iconic hotels in the park and if they did not win the bidding process, they intended to ask the new company for $51 million in compensation to relinquish rights to those trademarks (Delaware North filed for trademarks on the names after taking control of the properties).

Ahwahnee Entrance Sign
That’s one expensive sign!!!

Well, Delaware North didn’t have the lowest bid, Aramark did. That’s when Delaware North filed a breach of contract lawsuit claiming the Park service should have required Aramark to buy all of the related assets, including the trademarks for the names. When Aramark took over in 2016, instead of paying the ransom that Delaware North was asking, the Park Service just changed the names.

  • The Ahwahnee became the Majestic Yosemite Hotel
  • Camp Curry became Half Dome Village
  • Wawona Hotel became Big Trees Lodge
  • Yosemite Lodge at the Falls became Yosemite Valley Lodge
  • Badger Pass Ski Area became Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area

Rather generic-sounding names if you ask me. They didn’t seem to think the changes were going to be permanent, based on the signs in the park.

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They’ve finally settled!

It took over three years but the National Park Service put out a press release on Monday saying that all involved parties have settled and some of the locations will be going back to their original names.

The settlement involves the transfer of trademarks and service marks at issue in the lawsuit from Delaware North to Aramark. Under Aramark’s Yosemite concession contract with the National Park Service, those trademarks and service marks will transfer at no cost to the National Park Service upon the expiration or termination of Aramark’s contract. The settlement also involves Delaware North’s transfer of various types of tangible assets (not previously purchased by Aramark) to Aramark and the National Park Service. Finally, the settlement provides for payments to Delaware North from Aramark and the United States to resolve any and all contractual disputes among the three parties arising from Delaware North’s departure as a concessioner at Yosemite, and Aramark’s assumption of its Yosemite concession contract.

The National Park Service looks forward to the restoration of some of the previous names of the properties at Yosemite, including the Ahwahnee hotel, and the resumed use of other trademarks in connection with concessioner activities at Yosemite. Any changes to the current names of properties at Yosemite National Park following this settlement will be based upon a schedule to be determined by Aramark and the National Park Service.  

Although not mentioned in the press release, this article in the Buffalo News says the federal government will pay $3.84 million and Aramark will pay the remaining $8.16 million of the settlement to Delaware North.

Considering the value of the 15-year Yosemite concessions contract is valued at up to 2 billion dollars, $8.16 million isn’t a lot of money for Aramark to pay so they can pair the iconic names back with their rightful locations.

Final Thoughts

The hotels located in the US National Parks are as iconic as the locations themselves. Their names are part of the history of the park and I’m glad to see that all parties involved have settled their differences. Now people will once again be able to stay a night at the Ahwahnee Hotel instead of staying at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, which to me sounds like it would be the name of a motor lodge outside the park entrance instead of the jewel of the park service.

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If you’ve never stayed at or at least visited the Ahwahnee, you should. It’s one of a kind, inside and out. However, walking around at night is a little creepy. I guess that’s because the hotel was the inspiration for the interiors of the hotel in The Shining, and now that you’ve learned that, it can never be unlearned. You’re welcome.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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