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Bass Pro: SJ Countys single biggest tourist attractions
The manmade waterfalls inside Bass Pro Shops are among the most photographed spots in Manteca. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Clicking cameras along with awestruck looks as people gaze at the scenery while lingering for three to four hours to take it all in can mean only one thing - a popular tourist spot.

Bass Pro Shops’ Manteca store that is designed as a tribute to Yosemite, the Sierra, and the Delta definitely qualifies as an attraction given 2.7 million people in 2009 passed through the 65-foot replica of a redwood tree with a tunnel carved at the base to enter the store that opened 17 months ago in The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley.

That is more than the number of people that passed through the turnstiles for the Stockton Ports baseball’s best season in 2007 when they attracted 218,497 fans. It tops the 217,098 attendance mark for the Stockton Thunder hockey during the 2009-10 season

Without a doubt, the Manteca Bass Pro Shop store is San Joaquin County’s single biggest attraction for luring out-of-area visitors. Right behind it with 430,705 in paid attendance in 2009 was the Manteca Big League Dreams sports complex. There is at least one out-of-town tournament scheduled every weekend at BLD.

By any definition the one-two punch Manteca has to draw tourists is a success.

“Bass Pro Shop’s numbers are comparable to a small amusement park,” noted Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Linda Abeldt.

Having two big draws is allowing Manteca to cash in on what is considered one of the biggest slices of the California economy - visitors dollars.

Speakers at a Vacaville gathering for tourism this week noted that one out of every nine jobs in California are supported by tourism or visitors dollars. While many think of tourists as being those on a week-long trip that either fly or drive somewhere, it actually is anyone who travels to another destination for a recreational purist. By that standard, it is easy to understand how weekend or one-day trips can generate significant revenue for a city.

Abeldt noted BLD is helping shatter misconceptions that many people from out of the area have as Manteca being primarily an agricultural town.

“The average visitor at Bass Pro stays three to four hours,’ Abeldt said. “Someone staying that long is likely to buy gas, eat, and do other things.”

She pointed to the long lines that can often be found at the only restaurant now open in Orchard Valley - Red Robin Gourmet Burgers.

Bass Pro’s draw has been helping concerns far away from the 120 Bypass outdoors store once described as “an REI on steroids.”

Bass Pro visitors are making their way to Delicato Vineyards wine tasting room as well as places like Kelley Brothers Brewing Co. & Brickyard Oven restaurant in downtown Manteca.

Kelley Brothers actually started building a loyal following when they took advantage of the opening weekend for Bass Pro Shops when over 30,000 people visited it in four days by placing flyers with directions to the restaurant and brewery on vehicle windshields.

Their reasoning was simple. There was no restaurant at Orchard Valley at the time and people have to eat sometime. Now they are getting repeat customers from that initial effort.

Manteca as a whole has been getting a lot more attention from potential visitors thanks to both Bass Pro Shops and BLD.

The CVB receives an average of 250 requests a month on information about what to do in Manteca and the surrounding area. The CVB sends those people copies of the visitors guides that are also picked up by potential visitors at various trade shows as well as those that are part of events being staged in Manteca such as softball tournaments and the 2010 Manteca Senior Games now underway.

In addition thousands more access the visitors guide online each month.

Since April 1, there have been 1,300 drop ins at the Manteca Visitors Center that the CVB staff just around the corner from Bass Pro Shops in the Orchard Valley center.

Manteca also operates the only visitors’ center between Sacramento and Merced. It is open seven days a week.