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Waterparks just don’t happen

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POSTED March 22, 2018 2:01 a.m.

Debby Moorhead understands how things work.
While at lot of people lump all developers together and view them as the devil, the Manteca councilwoman now in her 10th year gives them their due — especially the ones that love Manteca as much as anyone else and show that they do.
On Tuesday when the City Council was approving the waterpark resort deal, Moorhead lauded former elected officials such as John Harris and Vince Hernandez along with Willie Weatherford, city staff, Great Wolf representatives, and independent consultants performing due diligence to make sure municipal interests are protected. But she also made it a point to thank the people who sparked the vision and worked behind the scenes to get the ball rolling — the Manteca Development Group.
Manteca Development Group is one of several development firms that have both Bill Filos and Mike Atherton as principals. The group also involves Art Nunes and Demetrious Filos among others.
Back in 2005 just a year after Manteca Waterslides closed, there was talk among Filos, Nunes, Atherton, and former Mayor Jack Snyder during one of their brainstorming sessions that they should try to find someone interested in building a new water park in Manteca.
A few years later when the council was trying to give the idea of securing a water park some traction, Hernandez and DeBrum traveled to Grapevine, Texas, to see a Great Wolf resort. Some argued the right model for Manteca was 37 miles to the south in Mansfield, Texas where a Hawaiian Waters waterpark was built adjacent to that city’s Big League Dreams. What sold Hernandez and the council majority was the fact an indoor waterpark offered year-round employment instead of seasonal work. That was the first step of a 10-year journey started.
As an aside, none of this means that a standalone outdoor water park won’t be built in Manteca. There are communities elsewhere in the country where outdoor water parks are built near indoor resorts such as Great Wolf and they do quite well.
Now for the information that might surprise you. The master plan for the 210-acre family entertainment zone that Great Wolf would be a part of was paid for by Manteca Development Group. Altogether, they have invested $500,000 working on the FEZ and behind the scenes on the indoor waterpark resort and haven’t received one cent. The only way they will have the opportunity to recoup that money and make a profit is if the city continues to retain them as development partner for the remaining 180 acres in the FEZ. That means they don’t get reimbursed or make money unless they can secure development to make the FEZ a success. The city isn’t simply hoping and that’s it. They have a proven group working on their behalf and it doesn’t cost them a penny even if development occurs.
It was an Atherton, Filos, et al partnership that converted the shuttered Spreckels Sugar plant into a 360-acre economic juggernaut that served as the linchpin that leveraged projects such as BLD and making it possible for the development of the Stadium Retail Center. Every other potential developer looked at it, saw the clean-up, fretted about possible unknown pollution issues and said “no thanks.” There’s a lot less risk in developing flat farmland.
Not only did Atherton and Filos make a major business park and retail center happen, but they put together land deals that made Orchard Valley and Bass Pro Shops happen as well as Del Webb at Woodbridge.
The deal of the 20th century — selling 52 acres to the city for a $1 to create Woodward Park — was the handiwork of Atherton. Other developers would have required something in return such as credit against park development fees but not Atherton. Not only did they pay the full fees but they pushed the city back in the 1990s to up the fees charged new homes believing they were inadequate.
Atherton and Filos were the champions of bonus bucks that were once charged for sewer allocation certainty. The bonus bucks covered a lot of amenities for Manteca not to mention $11 million that was used to keep city services afloat during the Great Recession.
Even though they have nothing to do with the Great Wolf deal, it would be remiss not to mention the sibling team of Toni and Bob Raymus when mentioning developers that have a vision and love for Manteca who don’t view building homes as being about making all the money they can.
They have built on the legacy of their father — the late Antone Raymus. They simply aren’t building homes. They are building a community. That is reflected in a lot of quality of life endeavors such as Give Every Child a Chance, the HOPE Family Shelters, the Boys & Girls Club and more.
And, to top it all, not only do the above mentioned developers build livable neighborhoods but they also historically have the lowest priced new homes on a per square foot basis in Manteca.
Developers tend to be a big punching bag for a lot of folks. But without developers that genuinely care about Manteca, what would Manteca be alike today?

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