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Family fun Mecca
Manteca pursuing 210 acre project
flow rider story 1 LT
A boarder rides a wave on a Flow Rider similar to what Manteca hopes to have as part of the proposed Family Entertainment Zone.

Land once secured to expand Manteca’s wastewater treatment plant could one day become the Northern California Mecca for family entertainment.

The final environmental impact report for the proposed 210.7-acre Family Entertainment Zone on city-owned land that includes the proposed Great Wolf Resort and the existing 28-acre Big League Dreams sports complex  goes before the Manteca Planning Commission Tuesday.

Once the document is certified by both the commission and City Council, documents dealing with development and financing of the proposed $200 million Great Wolf Resort that will occupy about 30 acres leased from the city will move forward.

City Manager Karen McLaughlin has indicated once the EIR hurdle is passed, review and adoption of critical documents for the Great Wolf project should come up relatively fast. That means a final decision on Great Wolf could be made by the council by year’s end. If that happens, Great Wolf could be up and running as early as late 2017.

While the deal for the 500-room destination Great Wolf Resort with indoor and outdoor waterparks as well as a conference center has been the high profile use for part of the land since negotiations started in 2010, the overall family entertainment zone (FEZ) could create major opportunities for community recreational as well as regional family entertainment and amateur sports.

The city — which intends to retain ownership of all the land  — would enter into license deals or lease agreements with the private sector of 55 years or 99 years depending upon the size of the investment. Great Wolf  as an example, is envisioned as a 99-year lease.

There would be 62 acres set aside for indoor and outdoor amateur sports activities. That’s in addition to 28.5 acres for the expansion of the BLD complex and the creation of multiple use fields with the primary emphasis on soccer. The fields, just like BLD, would be operated and games booked by a private sector partner. And just like the BLD fields, the multi-use fields would be available for free use by the public weekdays before 4:30 p.m.

The project also envisions a stadium built around an internationally sized field.

The FEZ concept was devised to build on the success of BLD, Bass Pro Shops and Woodward Park (in the form of soccer tournaments) in attracting regional visitors’ dollars to Manteca. It would be anchored with BLD and the Great Wolf Resort to develop a strong 1-2 regional and Northern California draw while also tapping into international and national visitors that use the 120 Bypass corridor to reach Yosemite National Park and the central Sierra after flying into the San Francisco Bay Area.

It also is aiming to tap into a younger market that is developing in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and the growing trend of families to take vacations built around their children’s sport activities.

The heart of the FEZ would be a manmade lake. The EIR notes that is the preferred option for an area that would otherwise end up being used as a storm retention basin.

The lake would be designed  for personal watercraft such as paddle boats and kayaks. There would be no swimming.

Boardwalk promenades would surround the lake envisioned to be lined with restaurants with al fresco dining and retail venues.

Some 33 acres could accommodate up to 337,000 square feet of restaurants and retail.

The sports portion is proposed to include an indoor arena designed for basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and cheerleading competition. 

Other sports envisioned include a BMX track, a race course for mini-electric race cars, and a hard surface skate park.

The city is hoping to encourage private sector partners to offer activities such as miniature golf, family arcade games, laser tag, and ball crawl. Significant facilities could include a rock climbing wall, ropes course, zip line, and a flow-ride facility that creates waves for surfing and similar uses employing boards.

The FEZ is proposed to straddle the extension of Daniels Drive from just beyond Costco to McKinley Avenue. A second street just north of BLD would intersect with the extension of Milo Candini Drive and eventually align with Wawona Street at Airport Way.

The Planning Commission meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center council chambers, 1001 W. Center St.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email