Manteca’s Big League Dreams is doing something that no other municipal recreation facility does in the Northern San Joaquin Valley - it serves 430,000 plus people a year without costing the city’s general fund a penny.
And starting this year, it’ll generate $400,000 annually to help Manteca pay for day-to-day services such as police, fire, parks, streets, and expanded library hours.
The city essentially has a major recreation complex - arguably the largest in the region with its six replica baseball fields and indoor soccer arena - while avoiding maintenance and operation costs.
Over the course of 35 years, that means the general fund will have avoided at least $17.5 million in ongoing costs typically assigned to a complex its size. That’s because the agreement with BLD to lease the city owned park requires them to do all of the upkeep, marketing, and replacing worn items without the city spending a dime. At the same time, the city could realize $14 million in rent payments over 35 years that go directly to the general fund.
Mayor Willie Weatherford has noted the partnership has been beneficial to the city because BLD runs the complex as a business.
When adult recreation softball was handled by city staff, the team fees barely covered the cost of running leagues that had expenses such as umpires, scorekeepers, and maintenance staff plus equipment and supplies.
The mayor has noted he gets complaints once in awhile from people who would like to see the BLD team fees lowered. Weatherford simply explains that BLD is being run as a business. The city staff - because they weren’t 100 percent focused on adult softball and the need to market and provide enhancements to generate revenue - were unable to cover much more than the cost of actual leagues. Overhead such as management and supervisors were paid by the general fund.
Everything at BLD is paid for from entry fees and money spent at the two restaurants whether it is salaries for workers at the complex or annual rent payments to the city.
Based on demand - all leagues fill up and there is a tournament booked every weekend for a year out - BLD hasn’t overpriced its fees. They can command a higher than usual fee due to the ambiance, facilities, and the service. They have also taken full advantage of Manteca’s location to book tournaments seeking a central venue as well as providing league play for teams that have members scattered throughout the region.
And if for some reason BLD goes south, the general fund that provides basic services such as police and fire protection isn’t on the hook thanks to how the complex was financed.
The city used $29 million in redevelopment agency funds that did not have to be paid back since the original bonds are repaid by property taxes.
If that had not been done, virtually all park fees from growth the city collects would have had to go for the debt service. And - if building slowed down - the general fund would have had to make up the difference. Instead, there is no risk to the general fund.