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Manteca scores big with Big League deal
BLD2one copy
Teams shake hands after a game at Big League Dreams. - photo by HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photos

Ten years this October the first ball was tossed at Big League Dreams — a $30 million sports complex that displaced fields of corn that was being grown for cattle feed using treated wastewater.
It took seven years to get to that point including five years of political warfare that threatened to rip Manteca apart after contentious council meeting after contentious council meeting were jammed with opponents livid that the city wanted to build the complex originally at Woodward Park.
Some of those meetings lasted past midnight including a record setting nine-hour meeting.
Much of the acrimony went away when the council abandoned Woodward Park and opted for the present location on Daniels Street that allowed the use of redevelopment agency funds to build the project.
That didn’t silence critics that believed the financial analysis was deeply flawed.
Ten years later that analysis stands as a laser sharp document.
By the end of the 2015-2016, the analysis projected Manteca would net $3.7 million from the private-public partnership that had the city building and retaining ownership of the facility but then  leasing it for 35 years. BLD is responsible for all maintenance and operational costs. That projection was off slightly. Manteca has received $3,723,324.19 — or $23,324.19 more than project for this point in time.
“It was an amazingly accurate projection,” noted City Manager Karen McLaughlin.
McLaughlin believes the BLD decision was one of the smartest out-of-the-box moves ever made by the city.
As for the decision to switch locations, “It was by far the best decision,” McLaughlin said.
Not only did Manteca secure a community park that it won’t need to spend an estimated $14 million maintaining for 35 years but it has had a wildly positive impact on general fund revenues as well as being the linchpin to trigger development of the nearby Stadium Retail Center anchored by Kohl’s and the building of Costco and set in motion work on the envisioned family entertainment zone.
 And of the financial projections continue to hold after 35 years the BLD project will have:
ugenerated more than $12 million for the general fund.
uprovided $528,000 as the city’s share of property tax on the lease agreement.
uyielded $739,712 as the city’s share of on-site sales tax collected.
uallowed $13.9 million in savings for not having to hire workers to run and maintain the sports complex.
ugenerated $7,162,272 in motel room and sales tax from those teams booking rooms and staying overnight in Manteca during tournaments.
Manteca is now in discussions with BLD about adding two or three more replica fields.
Two weeks ago, BLD officials reiterated that Manteca is by far their most successful venture.
McLaughlin noted the savings over the past eight years from not having to maintain the sports complex reflects an accumulative $1,240,728 of savings for the general fund. That is the equivalent of the ongoing annual salaries of two public safety workers.

Longest running
political brawl
in city history
The fight over whether Manteca should even have a BLD lasted seven years from start to finish making it the longest running political brawl in municipal history. It included regular marathon council meetings that typically lasted six hours with some going on for nine hours. It prompted a criminal investigation when then Councilwoman Denise Giordano accused a BLD partner of threatening her by pointing a finger at her just before 3 a.m. during one particularly heated council meeting. The District Attorney’s office investigated and declined to file charges.
The initial furor was created over the site proposed at Woodward Park. The city, at the time, lacked the funds to develop Woodward Park. Council members saw the private-public partnership with BLD as an effective way to do so. Neighbors didn’t want traffic, night games, and crowd noises.
Ultimately the location was switched to surplus municipal wastewater plant land where the city could use redevelopment agency funds to build the complex. That in turn freed up park fees to start development of Woodward Park.

Lathrop sued to
stop BLD complex
Then, just as Manteca political settled down, Lathrop slapped a suit against the project  as well as the accompanying Stadium Retail Center claiming the two would generate excessive surface traffic on streets in that community. That delayed the start of both the retail and BLD complexes for close to a year. Meanwhile cement and steel prices shot up adding $5 million to the complex’s price tag that ended up costing more than $30 million to build.
There was also opposition from a group that had been championing private sector firms taking over the municipal wastewater treatment plant the city had already built but didn’t like the idea Manteca would finance the park.
Some critics zeroed in on the fact RDA borrowed money to build the park. Yet if the city did it outside of the RDA boundaries they would have had to borrow funds in a manner that required them to be repaid from the general fund if adequate revenue did not come in from the BLD complex.
City parks in California are typically built by borrowing money, using park fees paid by growth or a combination of the two.
This way, users are basically picking up the entire tab of running, managing and maintaining the sports complex. At the same time, BLD has to replace anything that wears out in their dime whether it is seating, light standards, roofs, netting, turf, or the parking lot asphalt.
Initially municipal rank-and-file recreation staff was leery of the project. But even they conceded that a company driven by profit and the need for return business had the motivation to aggressively book teams and tournaments as well as cater more effectively to the needs of players.
Basic rent is based on gross income. There are also two other payments BLD is required to make every year — $40,000 and $26,500 for the cost of adding on two features after the original contract was awarded to build the complex. Those features were the indoor soccer arena and all-weather turf for all six baseball infields that were not included in the original BLD project. Those payments are reimbursing 100 percent of the cost of the two projects to the bonus bucks account that represents fees paid by developers of residential sewer allocation certainty and park fees collected on new homes for community facilities.
The basic rent initially rent to pay back park fees used to help build the complex. That money was paid off four years ago. Over $1 million was returned to build other recreation facilities in Manteca. No other park has done that either. The fees now being paid go into the general fund. That came to $499.233.78 for the last fiscal year.
 That — combined with the annual avoidance of what it would have cost the city to manage and run leagues plus maintain and replace components as they wore out at the facility — has a positive impact of $770,000 on the city’s general fund.
Some critics have said that the figure of $27 million of what the BLD complex is expected to generate for the city over 35 years doesn’t cover the $30 million cost of building the complex. Opponents during the fight over BLD argued that if the city had built a sports complex like Tracy’s they may have paid less — the tab would have been $18 million without the indoor arena, two restaurants, and numerous upgrades. However, the city wouldn’t have collected any revenue to offset the cost of building the complex. They also would have been on the hook to maintain the complex.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail