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Great Wolf still knocking on door, Manteca studying whether to open it
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Great Wolf’s promise of a $9.4 million annual payroll and as much as $4 million a year in motel room taxes sounds enticing.

But Manteca’s city hall leadership team wants to make sure any public sector investment - which most likely would be infrastructure such as sewer and water lines and a street to access the proposed indoor water park resort and hotel - makes sense for the city and carries minimum risk while offering a maximum return.

It is one of the reasons why 17 months after Great Wolf said they were interested in building a hotel with at least 400 rooms and a 75,000-square-foot indoor water park on city-owned land west of Costco that no finalized proposed deal has been devised for council consideration.

City Manager Karen McLaughlin confirmed discussions are ongoing with Great Wolf Resort developers.

McLaughlin said the city is carefully examining every financing option they have in regards to various aspects of the project. One of those includes possibly participating in the financing of the 30,000-square-foot conference center that is part of the project and is aimed at bringing groups and competitions into the city.

McLaughlin, though cautioned, that such discussion does not mean the city has committed to any course of action. Rather, they are doing due diligence on all alternatives that are being presented.

It is keeping in line with positions taken by various council members who do not want to involve public money in a Great Wolf project unless the returns are such that it makes sense for the city to do so.

Also causing delays was the disappearance of redevelopment agency funding as an option as well as a bidding war between two investment groups to buy Great Wolf. Apollo General Management -a private equity group that owns such notable companies as AMC Entertainment, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Coldwell Banker, Cemetery 21, Carl’s Jr., and the firm that has rights to American Idol as well as Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali - prevailed earlier this year in buying the water park resort company.

Analysts believe Apollo is in a much stronger position to undertake expansions of resorts. Partnering with Great Wolf on the Manteca proposal is Colorado-based McWhinney Development.

The ultimate value of the Great Wolf investment in Manteca could reach $200 million.

If a deal is struck, it would take 2.5 years to get a resort up and running.

Preliminary numbers based on a special district room tax of 15 percent per night as opposed to the 9 percent levy elsewhere in Manteca indicated the resort alone could generate between $4 million(400 rooms)  to $6 million (600 rooms) a year. By comparison, Manteca’s existing room tax generates $350,000 annually while the city’s share of sales tax receipts is $7.5 million

The project could ultimately add 414 permanent jobs and 156 part-time jobs with a $9.4 million annual payroll, draw 400,000 visitors annually, create 1,000 construction jobs, and cement Manteca as a legitimate tourist attraction.