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Time to rethink performing arts & library plans?
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Pursuing the library and performing arts projects as envisioned in the go-go days of the housing development binge doesn’t add up for Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford.

The mayor believes declining government revenues coupled with the growing need for major roads, freeway interchanges and other infrastructure and amenities means it is time to rethink exactly how the city will accomplish objectives ranging from storm drainage systems to an expanded library and a performing arts center.

“It doesn’t make sense now,” Weatherford said of the $22 million, two-story library proposed for the existing site on Center Street.

The adopted plan called for moving the library into temporary quarters, demolishing the structure and rebuilding.

Now Weatherford said the city should look at how they can expand the existing building or other options besides a new library building per se. Ripon, as an example, took advantage of an old hardware store space to significantly expand their library.

Weatherford said a library is a big need but that it must be completed within financial reality and the understanding there are competing needs for future growth dollars even if housing comes back strong.

The mayor said the city has an obligation to work with developers to keep housing as affordable as possible. That means making sure the city gets the most bang for the growth fees paid on new homes.

Weatherford is hopeful the recently resurrected library building needs committee will take a new look at other possible options.

As for the performing arts center, Weatherford thinks it is time to completely rethink where Manteca is going.

“I’d like to take a look at changing the amphitheatre (proposed) for Woodward Park,” Weatherford said. “You could make that met most of the needs.”
The 1,000-seat amphitheatre is planned for part of the 10-acre storm retention basin at Woodward Park. That could take the form of what Colleen Corley – who got the ball rolling on the performing arts center discussion the last time that led to it being included on the government facilities project fee list – originally envisioned.

She had been vacationing in mid-Oregon in the late 1990s in a town that had a similar spring, summer and fall climate to Manteca’s. The community of about 20,000 packed upwards of 1,000 people per performance at the community’s amphitheatre. It had an expanded stage with light standards both on the stage and behind the audience as well as dressing rooms and storage areas for props.

Corley originally thought such an amphitheatre would work well in Shasta Park with its two storm retention basins. That proposal – as well as a recommendation of the Vision 2020 Task Force - triggered the performing arts center discussion. The price tag for a 400-seat facility was put at $8 million to $12 million while a 700-seat facility was considered a $14 million plus endeavor.

An amphitheatre would cost significantly less to build and wouldn’t have major operational costs.

“After the success of the Movies in the Park at Woodward it is something that looks like it would work,” Weatherford said.

He was referring to Fred White and his firm that staged free movies on Saturday evenings that drew between 500 and 1,000 people to Woodward Park. The event also included live music.

Weatherford said he could see the city working with the University of the Pacific and others in the performing arts to stage events at a Woodward Park amphitheatre. It would also work for everything from plays and concerts to recitals. There is the added bonus of having nearby parking.

The mayor noted the city will build its first amphitheatre this year as part of the Library Park expansion. It will seat 75 and will be located by the new gazebo stage.