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new wolf

The pandemic is keeping Great Wolf at bay.

The resort essentially finished in August has postponed its opening for a third time.  The new target opening is Thursday, Dec. 17.

 Due to COVID-19 restrictions Great Wolf opted not to open Oct. 28. due to the pandemic. The original opening date of Aug. 1 was pushed ahead to July 1 due to construction being ahead of schedule. That announcement was made in March some 11 days before Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide health emergency. That was when the July 1 opening was announced that was then pushed back to Sept. 1. A second postponement pushed the opening back until Oct. 28.

Three of the other 18 Great Wolf locations that had been up and running before the pandemic also remain closed. They are the Garden Grove location in Southern California targeted to reopen Oct. 28, the Boston Great Wolf that has a Nov. 25 reopening date, and Great Wolf in Niagara Falls in Canada that is targeted to reopen March 1, 2021.

In order to encourage people to book reservations at the new Manteca location, Great Wolf is offering a free cancellation program for a full refund or change to a future date without any penalties on any new or existing reservation up until Dec. 17.

That is in addition to discounts up to 40 percent on booking made for dates between Dec. 17 and Feb. 28.

For more information go to

Great Wolf is between a rock and a hard place.

They have a $180 million investment in a 500-room hotel with a 95,000-square-foot indoor waterpark as well as numerous restaurants and family entertainment venues that are sitting idle. Opening a Great Wolf in a new market under conditions where a part of the amenities could not be accessed would not be an optimal way to make a good impression even if it is weighed against pandemic conditions.

The delay in opening has impacted hundreds of people who were expecting to start working in mid-August. When Great Wolf is up and running 100 percent they will employ roughly 550 people.

Delayed opening means

revenue hit for the city

Back in mid-June when Great Wolf was still working toward a Sept. 1 opening financial experts schooled extensively in municipal revenue trends hired by the city to generate revenue projections for the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1 projected Manteca’s transit occupancy tax receipts would  grow by $1.2 million instead of dropping by $700,000 based on COVID-19 pandemic impacts.

The experts at the time said without Great Wolf opening Sept. 1, it would have meant that the projected $2.2 million revenue shortfall in the budget year the city is currently in that started July 1  would nearly double to $4.2 million.

I revenue flows are proportionate, that means the three month delay to Dec. 17 will cost the city at least $500,000 in lost revenue. Basically in rough numbers with everything being consistent the city would have a $500,000 dent in room tax revenue that basically is the 3 percent increase put in place by Measure J for every three months that may be added to pushing back the opening date even more.

In June the city indicated the $2.2 million to cover the projected gap between revenue and expenditures would come from the city’s $13 million fiscal stability reserves. That is the same reserve account the city will likely tap for lost revenue for the 108 days that the resort will have been closed on Dec. 17 after the budget analysis was made using a Sept. 1 opening.

The city as of June 30 in indicated they had an amount equal to 70 percent — or $30 million — of its current $47 million general fund set aside in reserve.

Analysts from HDL told the City Council on June 9 in projecting the hotel tax receipts they took into account the current impact of COVID-19 on travel, the fact soccer tournaments and Big League Dreams tournaments — a big source of room bookings — won’t return until the end of the year, and that there is expected to be a second wave in coronavirus cases between October and December mirroring the flu season. The second wave is expected to be less damaging on room bookings compared to what happened in March, April, and May.

At the time HDL projected Manteca’s transit occupancy tax receipts would grow by $1.2 million instead of dropping by $700,000 based on COVID-19 pandemic impacts. However, the longer Great Wolf stays closed, the closer Manteca will get to experience a drop in room taxes

The June report indicated property taxes will still be the No. 1 source of revenue for this year’s provisional budget expected to hit $50 million. Based on the sale price of property that has exchanged hands, new construction, and Proposition 13 adjustments Manteca will collect an additional $740,561 in property tax next fiscal year to bring the total to $17.2 million.

Sales tax is expected to drop $263,120 during the current fiscal budget year ending June 30, 2021 as businesses in Manteca take a $26.3 million hit.

The analysts do not expect the city’s sales tax to fully recover from the carnage caused by the coronavirus even within five years. That’s due to the loss of brick and mortar businesses and the shift to online shopping that accelerated with the pandemic.


Balance budget string

is likely over forcing city

to dip into its reserves

As things stood in June the city was expecting  to have to eat into $2.2 million of its general fund reserves to balance the current budget. That was after accounting for an expenditure of up to $1 million approved by the council June 9 to encourage early municipal worker retirement that would reduce expenses going forward.

The delay in the opening of Great Wolf until eight days before Christmas means just taking the resort room taxes into account and nothing else that may have changed Manteca likely is facing deficit spending up to $3 million in the current fiscal year.

While that effectively ends a six-year string of balanced budgets with revenues matching or exceeding expenditures within a given fiscal year, the city can still draw down on its reserves.

Manteca for years had a policy of not budgeting new revenue in municipal spending plans until they had money in hand. For example when Bass Pro Shops opened in October of 2008, no projected sales tax revenue was booked in that current year’s budget that ended on June 30, 2009. When preparing the budget for the following year, the city based sales tax projections for Bass Pro Shops on sales that were actually generated during the nearly nine months they were open.

 The city apparently abandoned that approach that some have criticized in recent years as being too conservative.

City Manager Miranda Luztow indicated financial experts have been trying to assess the city’s bottom line situation and if overly optimistic projections and other issues that go back years including contracts and such means even less money is available to the city as the pandemic continues.

Lutzow told the council last week that at the Oct. 20 council meeting there will be a detailed presentation of the city’s financial situation.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email