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Northern SJ Valley market better target for Manteca than Yosemite crowd

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POSTED September 28, 2012 12:41 a.m.

The 800,000 tourists that pass through Manteca each year on the way to Yosemite National Park may seem like a gold mine to some.

Already a number of them stop here - primarily near Yosemite Avenue and Highway 99 where the drive to and from San Francisco goes from freeway to surface highway - to grab some food and or gas.

If Manteca could just give them a reason to stay here longer, the argument goes, the city could generate jobs and more sales tax.

That was the initial thinking of Marketing & Feasibility Advisors consultant Dan Martin who helped devise the conceptual plan for the 140-acre family entertainment zone proposed west of the Big League Dreams sports complex on city owned property.

But as Martin started digging into data he discovered that the Yosemite bound traffic while impressive and capable of dropping more money in Manteca with the right attractions weren’t the right fit for a family entertainment zone anchored by a Great Wolf Lodge and BLD.

Families aren’t the dominate Yosemite bound tourists. Instead they are young people in their 20s and 30s as well as older couples.

Shifting through data also produced another surprise - at least as far as Martin was concerned.

There are 1.3 million people within a 30-mile radius of the 120 Bypass at Airport Way. More importantly it’s a population that is younger than the rest of California and the United States as a whole. And over the next 30 years it won’t be a stagnant population nor will it grow older. The region will start pushing 2 million people while the percentage of San Joaquin County’s population under the age of 19 is projected to increase by 52 percent. At the same time Hispanics will account for more than 50 percent of the county’s population

That prompted Martin to conclude youth orientated attractions - especially sports such as soccer that he said has a strong popularity base among many Hispanics - is what Manteca needs to concentrate on.

It is why the backbone of the plan includes not just additional baseball fields to take advantage of that segment of the youth sports market but a number of additional soccer fields as well that could be used in conjunction with the Woodward Park soccer complex.

That is the conceptual plan adopted Tuesday by the Manteca City Council for the family entertainment zone (FEZ) includes:

• a 400-room destination family entertainment hotel - Great Wolf - with a 75,000-square-foot indoor water park and 20,000-square-foot conference center.

• a new west entry to the BLD complex.

• an indoor all-seasons sports and expo center with four basketball courts that would allow alternative use for volleyball, cheer competitions, badminton, gymnastics, wrestling or exhibit space.

• an outdoor soccer/concert stadium, with 500 fixed seats and space for expansion.

• fields for soccer, football, lacrosse, rugby, and field hockey.

• additional baseball and softball fields for youth play.

• a retail food and beverage zone.

• an outdoor amphitheatre with stadium-style seating for competitions and performances.

• ESPN-style microbrewery.

• manmade lake with boardwalk with kayaks, canoes paddle board and paddle boat rentals.

• beach volleyball.

• destination playground.

• outdoor performance space including a band shell stage or gazebo with lakeside seating for 500.

• party pavilions and party boats.

• a family entertainment zone including go karts, Lazertag, ball crawl, arcade, mini-golf, black-light bowling, and refreshments.

• an adventure zone with zip lines, rope course, rock climbing wall, whitewater course primarily for rafts and kayaks, stunt BMX race course and hard surface skate park for competitions complete with spectator bleachers, and a FlowRider (a device that generates waves you can surf).

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