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Amphitheater instead of homeless shelter?
Mayor hopeful unveils vision for South Main
south main site
The 8 acres at 682 South Main Street where the city is pursuing a homeless navigation center. Mayoral candidate Lei Ann Larson wants to use the land instead for an amphitheater and aquatics center.

Lei Ann Larson vows to push for an outdoor amphitheater and aquatic park for the 8 acres the City of Manteca is buying on South Main Street for the purpose of establishing a homeless navigation center.

Larson — a staunch opponent of locating any type of homeless center across from the neighborhood she lives in — is one of three hopefuls in the Nov. 8 mayoral  election. The others are incumbent Ben Cantu and Councilman Gary Singh.

“It is clear the location of the homeless shelter is wrong for Manteca and needs to be relocated,” Larson indicated Thursday. “While this venue will not be built tomorrow, the ideas for this property are endless.  This is what this City needs — a place for all of the citizens to use and to gather with their families, while at the same time generating money for the city.”

Larson wants to see such an endeavor funded by the private sector, possible through endowments from Amazon and other large locations located in Manteca.

Although she had no targeted capacity for the seating, she believes a scaled down version of larger amphitheaters Northern California will be an effective draw for family-style entertainment.

She sees such  venue serving as a gateway project to a revitalized downtown. Larson said the traffic it would generate — between concerts and family use of the aquatic park that could include a swimming pool and water play features — could have a secondary effect by users patronizing downtown restaurants and other venues.

Larson believes the site at 8 acres is big enough for an aquatics center, amphitheater and needed parking to support the entertainment activities.

The city is in the process of buying the site for $1,760,000 for use as a homeless navigation center as well as multiple story  affordable housing with ground floor commercial  and/or a new police station for the city.

The land is being purchased with $2 million in state pass-thru money earmarked by San Joaquin County.

The money is earmarked for a homeless navigation center as well as affordable housing, any other use would require the city to either pay back the money or else a pro-rated portion of it that is not used for the expressed proposes it was awarded such as part of the land being used for a police station.

“Our past mayors and councilmen have given us Bass Pro Shops, Big League Dreams, and Great Wolf Lodge, while Mayor Cantu and Councilmember Singh want to place a regional homeless center near our downtown that will only lead to further stifling of our downtown,” Larson said. “I have listened to Manteca’s and understand that what they really want is to be able to spend their local dollars at home on entertainment, dining, and retail.”

The cost of such a complex Larson proposed could easily exceed $20 million.

A new aquatics center for Manteca was pegged at costing $11.6 million in 2016. It was part of a proposed package of $75 million work of recreation projects that never got beyond the talking stage after an overall citywide parks and recreation masterplan was developed by a paid consultant.

The only city-owned pool is the one at Lincoln Park. It is more than 60 years old.

In 2016, the price tag for bringing Lincoln Pool up to modern standards was estimated at $2 million. A replacement pool at Lincoln Park carried a $4.5 million price tag.

While no specific acreage was mentioned for an aquatics center, the city was looking for 20 plus acres to accommodate an aquatics center, community center, and additional playing fields. That is almost three times the size of the South Main Street site.

The city in 2016 identified a site on municipal property just north of the BLD complex.

At the time, it was indicated a more centrally located site that could be accessed easier by the entire community was preferred.

The 8 acres on South Main Street is the largest remaining undeveloped parcel in the city’s core.

Manteca was recently awarded a $16 million state grant to develop a homeless navigation center specifically at the South Main Street location. The state grant makes no reference to it having to be a regional homeless center. Larson, however, believes the city would be making it just that if they opt to go with a 299-bed facility instead of one with a significantly lower bed count.

The most recent point in time count conducted in January places Manteca’s homeless population at 129. That compares to 218 three years ago.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email