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Of the Hat mansion & golf courses
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The 30,000-square-foot Hat mansion in South Manteca was built in 1995. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Bulletin reader Ray Valentim looks at the 30,000-square-foot mansion on 184 acres that grape broker Michael Hat built just off Pillsbury Road in South Manteca and asks himself the same question that developer Mike Atherton did 13 years ago — wouldn’t it make a great clubhouse and golf course?

Valentim, in an email, points out: “It seems no one can figure out what to do with it and even demolishing it is controversial. Has anyone considered turning the mansion into a clubhouse and the adjacent acreage into a golf course? With all of the commercial growth in Manteca, a major golf course would not be out of the question. Manteca has attracted the likes of Bass Pro Shops — one of only four stores in all of California, Big League Dreams, and soon Great Wolf Resorts will also be a Manteca destination. Why not make Manteca part of a pro golf tour? Job creation and financial growth for our area would be astounding.”

  Atherton — who along with his partners did what everybody thought was impossible and transformed the shuttered Spreckels Sugar refinery into a 362-acre economic juggernaut in the form of a business park and retail for Manteca — back in 2003 saw the same possibility.

Atherton’s AKF Development partnership got into a bidding war with current owners Richland Communities when the property failed to sell for $12.2 million after Hat filed for bankruptcy in 2001. The foreclosure bidding on the Stockton courthouse steps got as high as $8 million before AKF folded and Richland won.

Richland has owned the property for the last 13 years. Initially they saw an opportunity for an age-restricted community much like Del Webb at Woodbridge with plans to convert the mansion into a clubhouse.

But then the Great Recession sidetracked that effort.

After the economy started picking up they made a closer assessment of the property. 

There was talk at one point of possibly converting the mansion to civic use such as a library as part of a proposal to get approval to build housing.

But eventually the idea of converting the mansion to any use slammed into the brick wall of reality. A detailed structural assessment of the mansion determined it was cost prohibitive to convert it into any public use as well as bring it up to current Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

That prompted Richland to advance a proposal last year to drop any plans for 800 age-restricted homes and roll out a proposal to build 1,030 housing units instead. It included addressing affordable housing needs with at-market homes with 158 lots of 5,850 square feet 224 lots would be 55 by 90 feet for a lot size of 4,950 square feet, 242 lots of 4,330 square feet, and 106 lots of 2,800 square feet. The latter would have alley access for garages and would likely be similar to projects in Oakdale and elsewhere that use concrete instead of asphalt for alleys and have landscaping. There also were roughly 300 townhouse units proposed.

The project got shot down primarily because of the placement of the smaller lots against existing larger lots of 7,000 plus feet instead of creating a buffer.

Given that Richland is in the home building business and has to pay for the demolition of the mansion that is considered significantly less expensive than trying to convert and retrofit it, the odds are slim to none that they’d give much thought to a golf course.

That said the idea of a pro golf tour style course may not sound out of synch with reality despite five courses closing in the Bay Area during 2017, French Camp’s 9-hole course becoming toast during the drought as have others in the region, and the fact Stockton is looking at selling or converting the use of two municipal golf courses.

Another golf course would seem to build on the city’s long-term strategy of making Manteca the Northern California hub for family entertainment and recreational sports.

Obviously the city itself won’t be jumping at the chance to open a second course given the existing Union Road course — while it has a solid draw and strong future — will require some significant investment over the coming years.

The cost of building a new course isn’t cheap. Land aside, the United States Golf Association in 2013 put the cost to build an 18-hole course at between $2 million and $4 million with buildings such as a clubhouse driving the price past $10 million. Mind you, a lot of it depends on soil type, grading, and whether soil needs to be imported. Also the USGC figure besides being four years old reflects the national costs and not California’s unique set of rules that drives the cost of projects up.

Given Manteca is heading toward 124,900 residents in the next 22 years and the emphasis on recreation/family entertainment to power the economy a second course of an even higher quality than the existing one doesn’t seem out of the question.

One place such a course could be considered is  in an area designated open space that’s part of the envisioned 1,650 home Trails of Manteca south of Woodward Avenue where it nears the gated Oakwood Lakes community in southwest Manteca.

Manteca is posed to start sending treated wastewater south of the 120 Bypass via a purple pipe system in the coming years. That would provide an ideal source of irrigation water.

While city leaders may not want to touch an idea such as a second golf course with a 10-foot pole at the moment, it might make sense to give it an exploratory consideration as a possible private/public sector venture somewhere down the road.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email