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Thunder Valley & Great Wolf: 2 peas in pod

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POSTED July 20, 2015 12:14 a.m.

Who in their right mind we book a room at a resort hotel not near any tourist attractions but one that is located south of a major wastewater treatment plant facility?

It sounds like one of the arguments naysayers use against the proposed Great Wolf Resort that is almost at the end of making its way through the City of Manteca approval process. But it isn’t.

It was an argument used against Thunder Valley Indian Casino & Resort in Lincoln in Placer County. Its 300-room resort tower not only has a commanding view of that city’s wastewater treatment plant but also the Western Placer County Regional Landfill and a privately owned auto wrecking yard.

Thunder Valley provides 600 jobs — the majority are full-time and have decent pay although not head-of-household income. Never-the-less there is a long list of people who will tell you that those $10 to $12 an hour jobs allowed their family to buy a house, helped put food on the table, and got them through college.

Great Wolf Resort in many ways is a better deal than Thunder Valley.

First and foremost Great Wolf Resort will pay taxes. Indian casinos are exempt from property taxes and such.

Great Wolf also will provide almost 600 jobs — 414 permanent full-time jobs and 156 part-time jobs. If you know of no one that will benefit from having a job that pays at least $12 an hour with a gross annual income of $24,960 let me know as I can introduce you to plenty of Manteca residents looking for full-time work or gainful employment. Many are young adults and others are nearing retirement — two groups having a particularly interesting time finding full-time work in the area. The jobs, for the most part, don’t require extensive post-secondary education.

The salaries alone will pump $9.4 million directly into the Manteca economy and — if you apply the boomerang aspect of spending in a local economy by the standard seven times favor — it ultimately will have a $66 million impact on the regional economy.

But who will fill the 500 rooms of the Great Wolf Resort that will include a 75,000-square-foot indoor water park, a 15,000-square-foot outdoor water park, and a 20,000-square-foot conference center? The same people filling the 300 rooms at Thunder Valley — people with more disposable income than the naysayers have.

Great Wolf, the retort goes, wants $300 to $350 a night for a bedroom suite. What families can afford that?

For starters, just to the west of Manteca are two little places called the Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Not only are the average household incomes off the charts compared to the Northern San Joaquin Valley but many of them have families.

They are the same families that during the Great Recession drove through Manteca to the Sierra to keep ski resorts from financially collapsing. They are the same ones that drop by Bass Pro Shops going to and from the Sierra on family getaways to drop several hundred dollars a visit.

They are the same families that can afford to invest the money needed for one or more of their children to participate in traveling baseball and softball teams that have tournaments at the Big League Dreams sports complex or in traveling youth soccer tournaments that often play in tournaments at Woodward Park.

Why shouldn’t Manteca families benefit from the jobs created catering to better off families from the Bay Area and elsewhere?

Then there is the argument the $300 to $350 price tag to book a room and use the water park is just too darn expensive compared to a regular water park. Guess again. Great Wolf suites typically accommodate eight people. That is just under $45 per person. And since the room comes with two days of water park access, the cost drop down to $22.50 comparable to a standard water park but with two pluses— a room and a resort setting.

Still not convinced naysayers slam Great Wolf because Manteca residents won’t be able to use the water park unless they book a room. What’s wrong with that? But to appease those critics Great Wolf and the city are negotiating slower periods where “locals” will be able to pay a charge just to use the water park.

What makes this argument disingenuous is the fact there aren’t a whole lot of Manteca residents who can say they religiously visited Oakwood Resort as families when the Manteca Waterslides were open. What there are is a lot of people who recall spending high school years or their young adulthood working at the Manteca Waterslides for their first job or to earn money for college.

Like Bass Pro and BLD, Great Wolf generates local job opportunities but on a much grander scale.

And if the only benefit you my get from it is having out-of-town visitors help pay for Manteca fire, police, street upkeep and such as well as provide your neighbors with jobs, do you really care if you can access the water park without paying for a room?

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.

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