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Manteca purses family entertainment zone as part of effort to snare more sales tax, jobs
mckinley interchange
This is a photo simulation of what the McKinley Avenue interchange on the 120 Bypass will look like when it is completed.

It’s not just an interchange.

It’s the future.

Manteca Mayor Gary Singh used those words to describe the interchange now being built on the 120 Bypass at McKinley Avenue.

His remarks Tuesday came hours after the City Council took another step to up its economic development game plan.

The council created a subcommittee of Singh and Councilman Mike Morowit to work with staff to shepherd efforts to bring more business — and tax dollars — to Manteca.

Singh said two key elements for the committee will be to streamline the process for businesses that are seeking to locate here as well as more aggressive marketing of what Manteca has to offer as a place to do business.

The step comes after hiring a dedicated economic manager several months ago, starting work on the possible formation of a downtown business improvement district, starting a push to market Manteca’s continued growth to lure restaurants and retail, as well as other initiative that make it clear that “Manteca is open for business.”

Where the interchange comes in is simple.

It will open the city’s 100-acre family entertainment zone (FEZ) bookended by Great Wolf and Big League Dreams for development.

It is land originally purchased to expand the municipal wastewater plant’s ability to dispose of treated water by leasing the land to farmers to irrigate corn for use as dairy silage.

“No other city in the region has land accessed by two interchanges a mile apart on a major freeway with 100 acres of property with infrastructure already in place,” Singh.

And what the city is going after are — as Councilman Charlie Halford noted — concerns that are “Amazon-proof.”

By that Halford means the generation of jobs and sales tax dollars that online retailers can’t take away.

The types of private sector users the city is seeking to acquire parcels in the 100 acres Manteca owns run the gamut from restaurants, amusement-style businesses, and family-recreation concerns.

And, as Halford pointed out, they are the type of businesses where a large share of those dropping sales taxes, gas taxes, and even room taxes that make their way into Manteca municipal coffers don’t live here.

“It’s not our citizens writing checks,” Halford said.

The overwhelming majority of dollars spent at Great Wolf and the BLD complex are from people that do not reside in Manteca.

Developing the FEZ would require marketing the fact Manteca is on the cusp of 90,000 residents is on pace to hit 100,000 people by 2030 as well as the fact Great Wolf and BLD are drawing people from out of the area.

Concerns — such as the brewery the city is working with to locate at Daniels Street and Milo Candini Drive within the FEZ — will be able to draw both on the city’s growth as well as the synergy created by Great Wolf and BLD.

“It’s time to go out and market the city,” Halford said.

The current council as Councilman Dave Breitenbucher pointed out, is building on work started  by elected leaders have served before them.

“Mayor Willie Weatherford back in the day talked about creating a (recreational) sports mecca,.” Breitenbucher noted.

Breitenbucher noted the city has landed three big players in that arena — Bass Pro Shops, Great Wolf, and BLD.

Councilman Jose Nuno pointed out the slowdown in sales tax growth that all cities are grappling with reduced projected revenues to support this year’s general fund services by $500,000 based on the mid-year budget report.

Sales tax — the city’s second largest source of funds behind property taxes to pay for day-to-day services such as police, fire, parks, and street upkeep among others — brings in between $13 million and $14 million annually.

The FEZ strategy is not being pursed anywhere else in the region.

Manteca opted to do so to take advantage of the fact it is equal distance to Tracy, Stockton and Modesto with 800,000 plus consumers with a 20 minute drive.

At the same it is essentially at the center of the NorCal Metroplex market triangle of 18 million consumers  anchored by San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento.

It is by design that the 500-room indoor water park resort is marketed as Great Wolf San Francisco Manteca.

Singh noted that both Morowit and himself are small business owners while he has working experience in real estate as well.

Singh believes that is a critical element needed in any concerted effort to help city staff understand what the private sector needs and challenges they are up against

The  committee also is concerning itself with retention of existing business and economic development citywide whether it is downtown or to lure employers to business parks.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email