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Farmland key to Great Wolf
Resort could break ground in mid-2014 if it gets green light
The City of Manteca bought 417 acres of farmland on Hays Road in 2011. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Construction of the Great Wolf Lodge that represents upwards of a $200 million private sector investment could start in the summer of 2014.

The construction timeline for the 400 to 600 room hotel with a 70,000-square-foot indoor water park plus conference center would take two years to complete. Ultimately, Great Wolf is projected to have a $9.4 million annual payroll with 414 permanent jobs and 156 part-time jobs.

The construction timeline for the project that is still undergoing extensive financial analysis by both the investment firm of McWhinney Development and the City of Manteca is included in a report the City Council is reviewing Tuesday in relation to the status of 417 acres on Hays Road. A final decision on whether Great Wolf will proceed is not expected until at least November.

Manteca bought the farmland at 23000 Hays Road in June 2011 for $3.4 million. That was the equivalent of $7,529 an acre. The purchase of the farmland near the San Joaquin River roughly over a mile west of the T-intersection of Airport Way and West Ripon Road was paid for with sewer connection fees assessed on new development.

The land purchase actually cleared the way for the potential Great Wolf project envisioned on 30 acres of city-owned land west of Costco as well as the proposed 140-acre family entertainment zone.

The resort and entertainment zone would be located on property currently that is part of the municipal wastewater treatment plant. The Big League Dreams complex at one time was also part of the wastewater treatment plant’s land bank.

The strategy was to eventually utilize the Hays Road for the disposal of agricultural waste and possibly other treated effluent to free up the 170 acres. The wastewater treatment plant land has become increasingly more valuable as the 120 Bypass corridors develops. At one point three years ago, commercial real estate experts contacted by the Bulletin said the land could eventually be valued by as much as $100,000 an acre or almost 12 times what Manteca paid for the Hays Road property.

The council during Tuesday’s meeting will be informed of how the city is working to obtain regulatory permit approval to utilize the Hays Road property. The council will also be told of the timetable for a master plan for the hays property as well as obtaining the right-of-way for a purple pipe to carry the discharge to the property.

The land will allow the:

u creation of spray fields to pipe untreated agricultural waste water from Eckert’s for disposal.

uuse of those same spray fields to actively go after securing food processors that seek locations to expand near crop production in the San Joaquin Valley that by some estimates could add between 500 and 1,000 jobs.

urelocation of spray fields plus the possible transporting of sewer sludge for drying to the Hays Road location will to eliminate any traces of odors connected with the present wastewater treatment plant.

ureplacement  of wetlands that are part of more than 100 acres of city-owned wastewater treatment property west of Costco and Big League Dreams to allow the land to be converted into prime commercial uses.

ucreation of the first wetland mitigation bank in San Joaquin County  working in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers that they can they sell easements to other jurisdictions in the county for the replacement of wetlands when needed within their communities.

udevelopment of the city’s own green waste composting facility.

usecuring of a site for a possible regional wastewater treatment plant 50 years or more into the future.

Future wetlands

Some 50 acres of the 417 acre site being purchased by the city is considered ideal for an easy conversion into wetlands. That would mean for every acre of wetland that Manteca must compensate for, the city would save $124,500 per acre through the Hays site instead of accessing a wetland mitigation bank.

At the same time that same land west of Costco that is part of the wastewater treatment plant site is valued at $100,000 an acre even in today’s market due to its proximity to a major interchange, freeway frontage, and adjacent economic activity. By that measuring stick, Manteca would be earning a return of $92,500 per acre if and when they go to sell the land west of Costco. And on land that is actual wetlands, between savings for replacement wetlands and a potential sale at today’s prices, Manteca would come out ahead by $217,000 an acre.

The city would need to build a pipeline for the wastewater treatment plant to divert agricultural wastewater from Eckert’s and other potential food processing plants to the proposed spray fields on Hays Road nearly three miles to the south.

The food processing strategy is a sharp departure from the last 30 plus years where the city avoided such operations like the plague since they gobbled up wastewater treatment plant capacity at the expensive of being able to serve homes. And because they are seasonal in nature they don’t send waste water for treatment year round. Even so, the city could never commit the unused capacity during off season for other uses as it was reserved for Eckert’s.

The shift to land disposable via spray fields a few years back for Eckert’s changed all of that.

Agricultural water waste has nutrients in it that can play havoc with a treatment process balanced primarily for human waste. However those nutrients are conducive to growing many crops specifically grain crops used to feed livestock. Manteca has leased land at the wastewater treatment plan land disposal fields of treated wastewater and wastewater from Eckert’s for years to a farmer growing feed.

San Joaquin County jurisdictions get inquires from an average of three firms a year that want to locate processing operations in the valley near farm production.

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

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail