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Manteca leaders: Explore possible Great Wolf options

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POSTED January 2, 2012 11:27 p.m.

Having the plug pulled on the Manteca Redevelopment Agency could undermine 13 months of talks with McWhinney Development on plans to invest upwards of $200 million for a Great Wolf Resort immediately west of Costco on 30 acres of city-owned land.

Steve DeBrum - who along with Vince Hernandez is part of the council committee that has been meeting with McWhinney’s representatives - said he wants the city to explore all other options concerning how to finance infrastructure necessary to serve Great Wolf and more than 70 additional acres of city land envisioned as a family entertainment zone.

“We have to examine every option (for financing),” DeBrum said. “If we come up with something and it works great but if it doesn’t. it doesn’t. At the end of the day we need to do our due diligence and explore all of our options.”

DeBrum made it clear he wouldn’t favor any financing option for infrastructure that would put Manteca in jeopardy.

In the past $10.1 million in RDA funds was used to extend Daniels Street and infrastructure to allow the city to land Stadium Retail Center and Costco as well as provide access to the Big League Dreams sports complex.

The California Supreme Court’s decision last week that upheld the legislature’s right to take RDA funds also struck down a compromise that would have allowed RDAs to continue if they split taxes in a “pay to play” proposal that essentially means RDAs will cease to exist May 1. There has been some talk of the legislature coming up with a compromise to allow RDAs to continue in some form. If they do come up with something it still has to get past Gov. Jerry Brown.

Council member Debbie Moorhead agreed with DeBrum that the city needed to explore options but wasn’t confident they could find anything that would work.

“It (Great Wolf) would be great for the Manteca economy,” Moorhead said in reference to the estimated 500 year-round jobs as well as 1,000 construction jobs, and $4 million plus in annual room tax revenue the report could generate for Manteca’s general fund to run day-to-day municipal services.

She criticized the court ruling and said the state has effectively “taken every last dime cities have to generate jobs.”

Moorhead blasted Gov. Brown noting that he went after RDAs “as a one-time fix for the state budget deficit.”

Moorhead said cities up and down the state have cut back on employees and reduced compensation while the state in comparison has yet to do any significant paring of the state workforce.

She also noted RDAs in most cities have been effective at fighting blight, creating jobs, and providing affordable housing as state law mandated.

City Manager Karen McLaughlin issued a statement last week that said staff would explore all other options available regarding Great Wolf and determine if any of them would be feasible.

McWhinney has proposed building a Great Wolf Resort that would include a 400 to 600 room hotel, 75,000-square-foot indoor water park, and 30,000-square-foot conference center.

Great Wolf would provide the 500 jobs plus room tax receipts. The firm projects 400,000 visitors annually to a Manteca Great Wolf resort.

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