Consultant Says Part of New Love Field Concessions Proposal "Just Doesn't Make Sense" and Extending Contracts is "Fairly Common"

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As Mayor Tom Leppert told DMN'er Rudy Bush last night, there will be at least four options for the city council to evaluate at Wednesday's briefing about the Dallas Love Field Airport concession contracts, two of which contain the mayor's input. We asked Leppert's chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, for those proposals but were told to wait until the documents are posted online.

Council member Ron Natinsky, on the other hand, was willing to send us the proposal that he penned with Leppert, which resembles a document we received yesterday from food and beverage concessionaire Gilbert Aranza. Aranza's outline of a meeting he had on Tuesday with the mayor discusses several deal points in general terms, most notably the desire to open each space for bids and allow the current concessionaires (Aranza and retailer the Hudson Group, which is partially owned locally by state Representative Helen Giddings and U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson) a right of first refusal on 25 percent of the "value" of the spaces. (The value is not defined clearly.) The Natinsky-Leppert proposal also includes the same provisions.

Pat Gleason, an airport consultant for five years who focuses on concessions, says it "just doesn't make sense" to bid out each space separately. City staff had recommended a maximum of two food and beverage concessionaires and two retail concessionaires.

"I didn't see any factual reasoning behind why they would want to use that methodology," he tells Unfair Park.

Gleason, the former vice president of revenue management and head of airport concessions at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for 11 years, is not currently working for Aranza but did review a lease for him a couple months ago -- work for which he hasn't yet been paid.

There wasn't anything that concerned Gleason about the original contracts supported by city staff and approved unanimously on February 22 by the Transportation and Environment Committee. In fact, he says extending the contracts of existing concessionaires is "fairly common" in the airport industry.

Gleason says it has become common because, like shopping centers, when airports find a good tenant, they're likely to do what they can to keep them. Airports also like to keep businesses close to home, if possible.

"As far as I know, there are very few good minority-owed companies in the Dallas area that could even handle this," he says. "It's nice to have a hometown company that's done a good job from everything that I can tell."

We forwarded Aranza's outline to Heinbaugh and asked the following:

First of all, I'd like you to confirm whether the outline is accurate. Aranza claims it has been accepted by city staff as an accurate representation of the current proposal from Leppert.

If you feel it's not accurate, please let me know where you believe the errors or omissions are.

Second, I'd like to know who's responsible for devising this plan.

Third, I'd like to know if the plan is endorsed by city staff.

And, finally, several sources have told me that the mayor wants to vote on this plan on Wednesday. Is that true?

This was Heinbaugh's response:

I do not know who wrote this, but the outline Mr. Aranza offered you has numerous inaccuracies in it. The general framework is similar to one of many ideas that have been developed and considered in the past few weeks. The Mayor and several Councilmembers have been exploring several different options that embrace a competitive bid process, provide strong opportunities for all minority and women concessionaires, and get the best deal for Love Field, travelers and the City. City staff has been working on additional options as well. A date for a vote on a final proposal is still being determined.

Aranza, who's not happy with the proposal given to him and two others by the mayor, provided me with a copy of his outline that includes his comments about each deal point; however, he has decided not to make them public.

The Hudson Group sent the following statement:

While we appreciate the Mayor's courtesy of calling Hudson directly to discuss the alternative approach, Hudson continues to support the original proposal -- which has been fully vetted and approved by the city's transportation committee 10-0 -- as the most sound business plan for the future of Love Field, the airlines and their customers.

All these new proposals could be a complete waste of time as sources tell Unfair Park that the seven minority council members are likely to support the previous proposal approved by the Transportation and Environment Committee in February, which is one of the options under consideration, meaning Angela Hunt remains the swing vote. While Hunt is unwilling to commit to a proposal at this time, she could draw the process out further by voting against all of them if she doesn't find any to her liking.Aranza Outline Aug10 Plan Love Council Proposal Alt Rev24

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