The Stockton Heat minor league hockey team is exploring the possibility of building a practice facility in Manteca that could ultimately seat up to 5,000 spectators as a possible new home venue for the Calgary Flames affiliate.
The 12-acre site is directly across the street from the Great Wolf Resort indoor water park and 500-room hotel and to the west of the Big League Dreams sports complex that currently anchor the city’s `envisioned 120-acre family entertainment zone.
Interim City Manager Miranda Lutzow will ask the Manteca City Council when they meet Tuesday if they are supportive of staff efforts to explore the possibility further. The basic proposal is an ice rink with the arena being tossed into the mix for consideration.
“Even though it is very preliminary at this point, we want to work to see if we can make it happen,” noted Mayor Ben Cantu.
The Heat currently plays at Stockton Arena where their schedule overlaps with the Stockton Kings.
Manteca Economic Development Specialist Don Smail has been talking with Heat representatives and the City of Stockton. The Heat since they are unable to practice on ice at the arena, use Stockton’s Oak Park Ice Arena. The team that is part of the American Hockey League’s Pacific Division doesn’t have locker room facilities at Oak Park.
Smail said the Heat were looking at other alternatives including a possible move to Fresno when Manteca approached the team.
“This is a joint effort to help keep them in (San Joaquin) County,” Smail noted.
Lutzow noted if the council agrees to have the staff continue exploring the ice hockey arena project initial vetting will take place regarding its economic viability and feasibility.
Initial plan would be to
serve as training facility
& public ice arena
Based on preliminary discussions the arena would initially serve as headquarters for the Heat as well as being the team’s practice facility with home games still played in Stockton.
Lutzow said once the McKinley Avenue interchange on the 120 Bypass is in place, the proposed Manteca arena could then become the home ice for the Heat. In terms of freeway access, a Manteca arena would be within a half mile of two freeway interchanges along the 120 Bypass. The Stockton Arena has no nearby direct freeway access and requires a circuitous route through downtown and residential punctuated with numerous traffic signals.
Although Great Wolf representatives made it clear several months ago that they are not in a position to know whether they will want to exercise an option for addition city land of add up to 250 more rooms at the Manteca resort, that can’t happen until such time as the McKinley interchange is open.
That said if simply a state-of-the-art ice rink arena was built with hosting recreation leagues and competitive amateur hockey tournaments the project would help fill rooms at Great Wolf and at least two other nearby hotels being planned to generate room tax for the city.
While everything is extremely preliminary, the development of a basic ice arena several cuts above those existing in the East Bay and Northern San Joaquin Valley could create a BLD like experience with a similar draw. A full-scale arena would be significantly more expensive.
Manteca is also at center of the Northern San Joaquin Valley market of 1.3 million people within a 30-minute drive between Modesto, Stockton, and Tracy,
A 4,000 to 5,000 seat arena that is being explored could also be used for other events including concerts. As irony would have it, the original Manteca Waterslides for the first 20 years of its 30-year existence was adjacent to the Oakwood Lake Amphitheatre where acts such as the The Judds, the Charlie Daniels Band, Mr. Big, Steppenwolf, Dio, Night Ranger, Tommy Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Go-Go’s and Willie Nelson performed.
Lutzow said preliminary discussions have touched on the possibility the ice could support competitive and recreation hockey play as well as tournaments.
Mayor says exploring
ice rink/arena is part
of city’s new strategy
Mayor Cantu noted an arena as proposed is part of the city’s strategy to aggressively go after economic development in a well-planned manner rather than do it piecemeal or for it simply drop in the city’s lap.
The Big League Dreams sports complex was initially pursued as a cost-effective way to build, operate and maintain recreation facilities the city lacked. It ended up where it is today on land once attached to the wastewater treatment plant after neighbors successfully applied enough pressure for a BLD complex not to be built at Woodward Park.
The city was exploring the possibility of trying to get a traditional seasonal waterpark next door to BLD as is the case in a Texas city when local developer Bill Filios persuaded elected officials to consider looking at pursuing a year-round water park resort that would help support the economy 365 days a year.
The city essentially created a site for an indoor waterpark and marketed it to players in the industry.
Cantu said the city’s strategy with the family entertainment zone is to aggressively go after chasing entertainment/recreation dollars from throughout the greater region to bulk up the local economy and strengthen the job market.
To that extent, Assistant City Manager Lisa Blackmon noted the city is currently working with investors that want to locate a brew pub near Great Wolf as well.
“We built BLD and pursued Great Wolf not knowing at the time they would anchor a family entertainment zone,” Smail said. “If (the arena project works) it will be the third anchor plus you would see it from the freeway as well.”
Lutzow said there would likely be some private-public partnership involved that doesn’t jeopardize the general fund. Such an approach was used to secure BLD with $30 million in redevelopment agency funds that is being returned in the form of lease payments to the general fund.
The Great Wolf deal involves sharing room tax the resort creates. Initially Manteca’s annual share is projected to come to $2.4 million after the first full year of operations.
The city’s also is spending close to $10 million to extend Daniels Street to McKinley Avenue complete with underground infrastructure not only for Great Wolf to connect to but more than 90 acres the city owns that it was developed as a family entertainment zone.
Other hockey teams in the Pacific Division are in Bakersfield, San Jose, Colorado, Tucson, Ontario, and San Diego. A team is being added in Palm Springs that will serve as the development affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Seattle expansion team that will start play in the fall of 2021.
A 10,000-seat multi-event area being built in Palm Springs at the Spa Resort Casino owned by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians will serve as home for the AHL expansion team. The arena is costing $250 million to build.
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