By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
BLD helps keep Manteca in the game
Sports complex generates $460K annually for general fund
The money that out-of-town players and supporters during weekend tournaments at Big League Dreams spent is helping Manteca weather the current economic crisis. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Big League Dreams could end up saving as many as five parks maintenance jobs.

The Major League themed city-owned sports complex that is leased to BLD has always been touted as a way for Manteca to avoid $17 million in operational and maintenance costs over a 35-year period. Now it has the potential of saving existing parks maintenance jobs so the city can keep park service levels fairly intact while dealing with a projected $11.3 million deficit in the fiscal year starting July 1.

It is now bringing in $460,000 annually in lease and concession payments thanks to the runaway success of the complex that is booking at least one tournament every weekend of the year including holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving.

That $460,000 is not going to debt repayment as the city was able to use redevelopment agency funds to build the complex. Instead, it flows into the general fund where the council has designated it to be used to build future facilities at Woodward Park and possibly elsewhere.

However, in the city’s current financial situation Mayor Willie Weatherford believes there would be support to shift the money to keep park maintenance up elsewhere. It is something the council can legally do and it would still be keeping in line with a promise the council made at the time the BLD contract was issued to make sure the revenue benefitted other municipal parks.

The BLD deal – plus a number of other redevelopment agency investments – has become a godsend as Manteca battles to weather the economic storm created by the collapse of housing prices from foreclosures triggered by liar loans.

Those other investments – Spreckels Park, Stadium Retail Center and even Kelley Brothers in downtown – have generated sales tax and jobs Manteca would not either have secured or put them in place years ahead of what the private sector would have done without help. Target, for example, had told city officials Manteca didn’t meet their criteria for a store for at least three to five years based on population and demographics. The RDA helped offset over $200,000 for infrastructure – sewer and water primarily – to lure Target to Manteca early. The sales tax generated that went directly to Manteca’s general fund allowed the city to recoup the investment in about two years.

“They (the investments) were done to generate economic growth,” Weatherford noted.

Still, the mayor isn’t disappointed that they have become a de facto lifesaver effectively easing everything from property and sales tax hits to helping make sure the Manteca employment situation isn’t worse.

Although Manteca is bracing for a property tax hit of around 15 percent this year due to the collapse of housing prices, the property taxes actually went up last year by 3 percent. Manteca was the only city that didn’t lose property taxes last year in San Joaquin County and that was attributed to the city’s commercial growth.

Sales tax also has benefited from economic deals the RDA has made plus a sales tax split plan with retail giants such as Costco and indirectly with Bass Pro Shops through the developers of The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley, Poag & McEwen.

Manteca gave up between 40 and 45 percent of its share of the sales tax from the two projects – the lifestyle center for 30 years and Costco for 10 years – to secure the retailers.

Sales tax in the first five months of this year has come in at $5.2 million, down from $5.6 million for the same period in 2008. If Costco and Bass Pro Shops were taken out of the mix, the sales tax figures would have taken another $200,000 to $400,000 hit. The two mega-retailers, in essence, have helped ease the pain of a severe drop off in vehicle sales that has hit sales tax up and down the state hard.

Bass Pro, like BLD, essentially is capturing out–of-town dollars to help pay for Manteca municipal services. Costco, for the most part, stopped retail dollars from consumers in Manteca from being spent at Costco’s stores in Modesto, Tracy and Stockton. There are also out-of-town dollars spent at Costco as well.

Weatherford noted BLD also brings in motel tax plus spending at restaurants and local stores that would not have happened without it in place.

Had BLD been built as a conventional sports complex such as the one in Tracy, it would have cost about $9 million less but Manteca would have been saddled with $15 million in debt payment plus interest as well as not have the indoor soccer arena.