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Sunday, August 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘No Pepsi, Coke’: Spokane Parks Department looking to switch soft drink allegiances with new contract

UPDATED: Fri., July 10, 2020

Pig Out in the Park patrons stream in and out of Riverfront Park on the 5th day of the 38th annual event in this September 2017 photo. A new deal with Coca-Cola will give the beverage maker exclusive rights to sell drinks within Spokane parks, including at events like Pig Out in the Park.   (DAN PELLE)
Pig Out in the Park patrons stream in and out of Riverfront Park on the 5th day of the 38th annual event in this September 2017 photo. A new deal with Coca-Cola will give the beverage maker exclusive rights to sell drinks within Spokane parks, including at events like Pig Out in the Park.  (DAN PELLE)

Spokane Park Board officials picked a new pop preference Thursday, ending a nearly two-decade run of Pepsi products being poured exclusively in city parks.

The board unanimously agreed to a five-year deal with Coca-Cola for soft drink service in Riverfront Park, on municipal golf courses, in Manito Park and at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex. While the contract takes effect immediately, many concession services remain shuttered due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Golfers will be the first to experience the new beverage service, said Jason Conley, executive officer of Spokane Parks.

“We will find a way that is the least disruptive to course operations,” Conley said, adding that “Coke’s ready” and can quickly install fountains, coolers and other equipment needed to serve the system’s customers.

The agreement is with Swire Coca-Cola, a bottler with offices on East Montgomery Avenue near Millwood.

The deal means that Coke soft and sports drinks will be the only option available to purchase in places that include the Park Bench in Manito Park and the Sky Ribbon Cafe in Riverfront Park. Coke’s exclusivity contract means its drinks will also be the only ones available for purchase at major park events, such as Pig Out in the Park and Hoopfest.

Parkgoers who may have expected Gatorade on sale will have to select from an assortment of Powerade flavors, among other changes. Conley said the Parks Department doesn’t have the space to stock all soda options, and the exclusivity agreement means the soda company is responsible for providing the serving equipment that the city would otherwise have to buy themselves.

“It just feels like a better fit and feel,” said Conley, who noted that Pepsi also bid to retain the contract and that RC Cola, which owns the 7UP and A&W brands, had been in early talks to provide beverage service.

Parks began looking at a new beverage provider late last year, but a final decision was delayed as the department dealt with the fallout of closures ordered to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The deal includes a 55% commission on vending machine sales, $27,500 in annual sponsorship dollars for parks and $15,000 in ice-making equipment for golf courses. Parks officials predict the annual value of the contract will be a little less than $61,000.

If parkgoers aren’t Coke fans, they’re still free to bring their own beverages from home for picnics or to enjoy on the golf course, as long as they’re not alcoholic drinks, Conley said.

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