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Cantu sees Great Wolf, Yosemite as catalyst
Part of the indoor waterpark of the new Great Wolf located in Scottsdale, Arizona. - photo by PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED

Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu got his first look Thursday at a Great Wolf Lodge.

And what was his impression?

“In a word, ‘Disneyland’,” Cantu said.

Cantu along with Manteca Councilman Gary Singh attended the grand opening Thursday of Great Wolf’s 18th location in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The lodge built on the Salt River reservation is a smaller version of what is being built in Manteca. The Scottsdale location has an 85,000-square-foot indoor water park, 350 hotel rooms, and a 27,000-square-foot family entertainment area. When the Manteca location opens in mid-2020 it will feature a 100,000-square-foot indoor water park, 500 hotel rooms, a 51,000-square-foot family entertainment center, 16,000–square-foot restaurant and food court, and 12,000 square feet of meeting rooms.

The Scottsdale lodge opened last month.

Cantu said he was particularly impressed by the number of foreign guests who opted to include a stay at Great Wolf as part of their visit to Arizona.

It is why Cantu believes Manteca needs to concentrate on tapping into international tourism that has made Northern California one of the top five destinations in the United States thanks to San Francisco and Yosemite National Park.

Already the City Council has started talking about reworking Manteca Transit buses to provide service to Stockton Metro Airport in coordination with two daily arrivals and departures of United Airlines Express connecting service to Los Angeles International Airport.

The idea of Manteca tapping into international tourism or even United States tourists that fly into California is not that farfetched.

Fresno Yosemite International Airport is now the main place for travelers to use plane service to reach the national park that draws more than 4 million visitors annually from throughout the world. It is 93 miles or 2 hours and 16 minutes from Fresno to Yosemite Valley.

Manteca to Yosemite Valley is 112 miles or 2 hours and 30 minutes. Already a number of tourist buses that originate in San Francisco take domestic and international visitors to Yosemite by passing through Manteca via Highway 120.

Before the Manteca Waterslides closed international and domestic travelers going from San Francisco to Yosemite would often stop in the late spring and summer at the outdoor waterslides.

Fresno does not have an attraction in the category of a Great Wolf Lodge that is being built in Manteca.

The Great Wolf in Manteca is less than 10 miles or a 20 minute drive via Airport Way to Stockton Metro Airport. United Airlines’ hub at Los Angeles International has connecting flights to more than 300 cities worldwide from New York City to Tokyo.

The city could capitalize on Great Wolf’s lure of family fun plus additional hotel rooms along with Stockton Metro Airport as well as extension of the Altamont Corridor Service Sacramento and the proposed Valley Link to connect with BART to essentially make Manteca a solid alternative as a base for families touring sites in Northern California.

Once lured to Manteca by Great Wolf where they can get two days access to the waterpark with one night’s booking (the lodge offers a secure place for guest luggage on the second day), they could then move to another Manteca hotel.

Then from Manteca using charter tourism buses they could take day trips to San Francisco, Yosemite, and Old Sacramento.

One of the biggest drawbacks for international tourists — especially from Europe as well as Japan and China — when touring the United States is the lack of robust rail service for individual travel.

That will change when ACE is extended to Sacramento by 2023 and Valley Link connects Lathrop/Manteca to the BART system several years after that.

At that point Manteca Transit could conceivably connect hotels to the Manteca Transit Center and the proposed Lathrop Valley Link station on the eastern edge of the Sharpe Depot site in addition to ride sharing such as via Lyft and Uber. That means tourists could stay in Manteca, which is central to Northern California attractions, and use mass transit or tourist buses to access them. 

It also means if tourists wanted to include an American amusement park as part of their itinerary, they could take an ACE train out of Manteca that stops in Santa Clara a short distance from Great America as well as Levi Stadium.

Cantu noted Great Wolf is a solid fit with Manteca’s plans to tap the visitors and tourism market.

The family entertainment center the city is pursuing across from Great Wolf and next door to Big League Dreams is an extension of that strategy.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email