The Center City Development and Operations Department (CCDO) is seeking bids for the management and operation of the new river barges and river barge concession along the San Antonio River Walk. The new company will be charged with overseeing tour services, charters, taxi service, retail services, and transportation to the Museum Reach district under a 10-year contract.

The City’s Request for Proposal (RFP) is specifically for the management of the new river barges that were unveiled in August after a design competition. The City will still own the fleet, but it will be operated by the winner of the RFP. The old barges have been owned and operated by Rio San Antonio Cruises for 13 years.

Those interested in submitting a proposal can attend a pre-submittal conference and site tour at the La Orilla del Rio Ballroom in the International Center on Oct. 17. A second site tour of both marinas will be held on Oct. 25. The City will accept questions on the project until Nov. 14, with proposals due Jan. 6, 2017. Bidders can not contact elected City officials until the winning bid is announced.

The new barge fleet was designed by Houston-based Metalab. The City expects to float out more than 40 new barges in time for the Tricentennial in 2018.

John Jacks, interm director of CCDO, told the Rivard Report in a Wednesday phone interview what the City is looking for from prospective bidders.

“One of the things we are looking at is an emphasis on additional programming opportunities that are not currently available,” Jacks said. “The current barges are limited on how they could be used. That’s why the jury selected this new design.

“For example, Metalab suggested that the new barges can be used for morning yoga or a floating playground for kids,” he added. “It’s just something different.”

The new company must give at least 52% of their gross sales to the City with a minimum annual guarantee of $4 million.

“There will be 44 new boats, they’re all electric, and they’ll provide an opportunity for people to commute between downtown and the Pearl,” Jacks said.

Top Image: The proposed river barge prototype parks along the Arneson River Theater at La Villita.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Here’s the Design for San Antonio’s New River Barge

Public Weighs in on River Barge Design Finalists

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James McCandless

Former intern James McCandless is a recent St. Mary's University graduate. He has worked with the San Antonio Current and Texas Public Radio.