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110 acres of family fun
Manteca wants to wed entertainment zone with resort
The proposed 600-room Great Wolf Resort is proposed west of Costco along the 120 Bypass.
Great Wolf Resorts and city leaders are still sorting through details of a potential deal that could bring a 600-room resort/indoor water park to Manteca.

It is part of a long-range endeavor that would also convert 110 acres of land that is part of the wastewater treatment plant complex into a family entertainment zone. The 30-acre Big League Dreams sports complex as well as the Stadium Retail Shopping Center both were built on land that was once attached to the wastewater treatment plant.

The city has just finished interviewing four consulting firms competing to evaluate and devise a strategy for a family entertainment zone along Daniels Street between Big League Dreams, McKinley Avenue, the 120 Bypass and the wastewater treatment plant. The goal is to determine what type of uses the market could attract to such a zone. If it moves forward, it will be the only concentration of family entertainment on such a scale in Northern California with over 160 acres once the proposed Great Wolf Resort and BLD are included.

The City Council today sitting as the redevelopment agency board is expected to move $58.5 million from the RDA into a restricted city streets account that includes money that could fund interchange work on the 120 Bypass at Airport Way as well as McKinley Avenue plus $3 million to extend Daniels to McKinley. Great Wolf and the family fun zone would front the Daniels Street extension.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton noted the uncertainly over RDA’s future in terms of Gov. Jerry Brown’s state budget may impact the Great Wolf proposal. He did not offer specifics.

In December Great Wolf representatives indicated an aggressive optimistic schedule would have had a deal sealed by April so that the resort could open by spring of 2012. Their second target to get a deal in place is October. Either month would allow ample construction time for the resort to be finished for the start of their two biggest seasons. A development firm and the city have formally entered into negotiations but there is no guarantee the project will go forward unless both parties can reach an agreement.

The proposed Great Resort’s 60,000-square-foot conference center is key to the family entertainment zone. It is proposed to be built in two phases along with the 600-room resort 110,000 square feet of water parks.

Manteca wants to tap into the youth “gathering” market for everything from cheerleader and gymnastics competitions and other sports to special interest groups aimed at youth and their families.

It is the same market that has provided the BLD with at least one tournament a weekend since it opened nearly four years ago.

City officials have said the family entertainment zone could possibly lure a wide variety of uses ranging from attractions such as Ripley’s Believe it or Not to cutting edge virtual amusement parks where high tech devices replace actual amusement park style rides.

Great Wolf Resort is proposing a two-phase development on city owned land immediately west of Costco along the Highway 120 Bypass that ultimately would see a six-story, 600-room hotel, the water park expanded to 110,000 square feet making it just smaller than the Manteca Target Store, and the 60,000-quare-foot conference center. The project could ultimately represent a $200 million investment in Manteca, add 500 permanent jobs, draw 400,000 visitors annually, create 1,000 construction jobs, and cement Manteca as a bonafide tourist attraction.

The Colorado-based McWhinney development firm would develop and own the majority of the resort while Great Wolf Resorts would manage and operate it.

AKF Development - acting as consultants for the city - first approached Great Wolf Resorts. A council subcommittee of council members Vince Hernandez and Steve DeBrum hammered out the parameters that set the stage for serious negotiations to start.

Preliminary numbers provided by the city indicate the room tax on the resort alone could generate between $4 million to $6 million a year without hurting existing hotels that currently bring $342,000 a year in room taxes into city coffers. A $6 million jump in room tax each year - if it occurs - is the equivalent of paying the salary and benefits of 50 police officers

City leaders also said other hotels would not be impacted since to use the water park visitors have to be guests of the resort. The room rates - which haven’t been set for Manteca - typically range from $280 to $300 a night for up to eight people. That includes full use of the water park both the day of their overnight stay and the next day as well.