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Questions about the impact of proposed FEZ

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POSTED September 29, 2012 1:33 a.m.

Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

I consider the idea to convert 140 city-owned acres into a “family entertainment zone” (FEZ) to be a “Great Wolf” in sheep’s clothing. Although I admire the vision of the proposed all-seasons sports and expo center, soccer/concert stadium, outdoor amphitheatre, man-made lake with paddle boat, canoe, and kayak rentals, lazer tag, mini-golf, and go-kart areas, among other amenities, I question the cost, both for the initial construction, purchase of materials and equipment, etc. and the on-going maintenance and staffing expense, that such an endeavor would incur and the true feasibility of this project.

What is the projected time-line for these amusements and facilities to be built – 5 years, 10 years, 15 years down the road? How is this to be financed? What is the cost of the infrastructure alone, which includes streets, lighting, as well as sewer and water connections – 20 million dollars, 30 million, or higher? Conservatively, if the infrastructure costs to extend Daniels Street to McKinley Avenue total $20 million, without concurrently building any of the proposed facilities (except, of course, Great Wolf Resort), the city will have spent quite a large sum of money that, in the near future, will only profit the Great Wolf Resort. Of course, once the infrastructure is put in place, the 140 city-owned acreage becomes much more valuable. Yet, besides Great Wolf Resort, how many of these acres will be sold off to private developers and what exactly is the expected margin of profit versus cost of infrastructure? In other words, if the majority of the acres remain under city ownership as a community park and entertainment zone, what does it matter if the land becomes more valuable? Or is the city’s true purpose less about entertainment for local citizens and more about trying to sell off city acreage, at a profit, to commercial developers?

 In its negotiations with McWhinney Corporation (for Great Wolf Resort), if the city agrees to front the infrastructure costs, would the developer pay the higher price for the 35 acres required by the resort or get that acreage at the pre-improvement cut-rate deal? If it is the latter Great Wolf developers come out ahead by purchasing land at a lower cost AND escaping the cost of infrastructure improvements. But, according to the Bulletin, McWhinney “is seeking financial assistance for the project.” More financial assistance?

The city contends that Great Wolf Resort will bring in $4 million per year in motel taxes. I understand that this project was never really meant for the enjoyment of the local population, but favored because its potential revenues stream (the motel tax) would benefit Manteca’s citizens. However, this anticipated $4 million amount (optimistic, in my opinion) must be weighed against the very real cost the city incurs by putting in expensive infrastructure that immediately benefits Great Wolf Resort, but only in the vague future (we aren’t told exactly when) will allow the city to develop and expand a family entertainment zone. The entertainment zone’s planned facilities sound enticing, but practically speaking, with such an urgent need for more police and firefighters, are they realistic? It seems like such projects would require even more safety protection, further straining personnel and the budget. Is the projected $4 million per year motel tax that the city hopes to acquire enough to cover the services of additional safety personnel, plus the staff and maintenance expenses of the entertainment zone? “Pie in the Sky” promises usually sound delicious, but pie that you can actually hold on a plate in your own hands, tastes a lot better.

Karen Pearsall
Manteca
Sept. 26, 2012

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