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Manteca no longer crying Great Wolf
Negotiation deal excludes waterpark, focuses on hotel, conference center
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Six years ago this week Great Wolf Resorts entered Manteca’s political vernacular along with the acronym “FEZ” — shorthand for family entertainment zone.
A Great Wolf representative at a City Council meeting back on Dec. 21, 2010 spoke glowingly about Manteca and how the firm headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin ultimately wanted to build a six-story, 600 room hotel with a gigantic indoor waterpark, and 60,000-square-foot conference center. It represented a $200 million investment that would draw 400,000 visitors annually, create 500 permanent jobs, and 1,000 construction jobs. The Great Wolf representative said they were hoping to open the first phase — a 400-room hotel and 70,000-square-foot indoor water park — as early as spring of 2012.
The indoor waterpark concept popped up while the city was exploring a proposal from the firm that operates Raging Waters in Roseville to build an outdoor waterpark next to the Big League Dreams complex. It would have mirrored as successful marriage in Mansfield, Texas where the Hawaiian Falls waterpark operated next door to a BLD complex.
Raging Waters was eager to spend $11.8 million out of its own pockets to locate in the community that a large number of people throughout Northern California continue to associate with waterparks even though the Manteca Waterslides had been closed since 2004.
But the idea of securing an indoor waterpark was floated. Staff and others sold the council at the time except for then Mayor Willie Weatherford that the resort concept with a year-round waterpark was an even better deal. Weatherford disagreed using the idiom “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” to argue the Raging Waters proposal was a sure thing. Weatherford lost the argument.
Today Manteca has environmental clearance for a 500-room hotel, 75,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, 15,000-square-foot outdoor waterpark, and 30,000-square-foot conference center and nothing else.
In a few months they will have spent a large chunk of the remaining redevelopment bond proceeds — around $8 million — on putting infrastructure in place to ready city-owned acreage fronting the Bypass between Costco and McKinley Avenue for a waterpark resort hotel and a family entertainment zone.
On Tuesday in a bid to keep shopping the waterpark primarily to competitors of Great Wolf in Wisconsin that serves as the epicenter of the indoor waterpark business, the council extended an agreement with Colorado-based McWhinney Development to serve as the exclusive negotiator for the city property that has EIR clearance as a waterpark resort. The agreement is now extended through April 30, 2017. The agreement no longer mentions a waterpark per se but instead references developing the site as “a hotel and conference/meeting facility.”
A similar agreement with Manteca Development Group to seek firms to develop portions of an adjoining 119.67 acres as well as another 13.74 acres on the northeast corner of Milo Candini Drive and Daniels Street for commercial recreation, retail, and entertainment purposes was also approved Tuesday. All of the land is owned by the city.
Neither McWhinney nor Manteca Development Group will receive compensation for being exclusive negotiators unless they secure firms to invest in the property.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email