Mayor Steve DeBrum called it ‘the greatest . . . project Manteca has ever seen.”
And he may be right.
The City Council Tuesday night approved a series of documents to cement a deal for Great Wolf Lodge to build a 500-room hotel/indoor water park on 29 acres owned by the city just west of Costco along the 120 Bypass.
Great Wolf representatives noted Centerbridge Partners — the private investment firm that purchased the company more than three years ago — has already released millions of dollars to move the Manteca project forward. That includes work on architectural drawings as well as retaining Turner Construction to do initial site work needed to build the complex.
As Northern California’s first indoor waterpark consisting of 109,767 square feet it will tap into the same market that Bass Pro Shops did in opening their store in Manteca 10 years ago — 18 million plus consumers within a 100-mile radius.
Great Wolf plans on spending millions of dollars a year marketing the Manteca resort once it is open. It will give the city media exposure that dwarfs what TV and radio blitzes Manteca Waterslides as well as Manteca Trailer with the signature “Maaan-tee-ka!” sign-off line did for the city in the 1970s and 1980s.
‘The greatest project
Manteca has ever seen’
As to what will make it “the greatest project Manteca has even seen”:
uThe $180 million investment is the largest ever for a private sector building in Manteca’s history. It is likely to also be a private sector record for the 209 region that includes San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties.
uThe 500-room hotel will be the largest in the 450-mile long Great Central Valley that stretches from Redding to Bakersfield.
uEven with a split of the room tax the resort generates for 25 years to help finance the project, it will be the city’s biggest source of taxes when it opens.
uWith 350 fulltime equivalent jobs — 250 fulltime and 250 part-time positions — it will be the second largest private sector employer in Manteca behind Doctors Hospital of Manteca.
uIt will employ the greatest number of construction jobs ever for a single project in Manteca by employ 1,397 people in various building phases earning $76.3 million.
uIt will give Manteca the biggest private sector year-round destination resort in the Northern San Joaquin Valley drawing 500,000 visitors a year.
uGreat Wolf will be the largest non-distribution center building in Manteca in terms of floor space coming in with just over three times the size of the 140,000-square-foot Costco store next door that is currently the largest.
Silverman touts ‘zero’
risk to the city
But as Councilman Richard Silverman noted, none of that would be worth it if Manteca’s taxpayers were put at risk.
After a presentation by Economic & Planning Systems firm Manteca hired to vet the Great Wolf proposal whose representative David Zehners called the deal “simple, possessing minimal inherent risk to the city,” Silverman pointed out there was one number that Zehners did not highlight — zero.
“There is zero debt to the city,” Silverman.
Silverman said the absolute top concern for himself and his council colleagues was obtaining a deal that protected the city and had “very low risk to the taxpayers.”
“I certainly don’t think this city gave away anything,,” Silverman said who also called the project a “game changer” in terms of elevating Manteca’s regional profile.
The city walked away from talks with another waterpark developer — Kalahari Resorts — that not only wanted a larger share of the room tax but also a cut of the sales tax and property tax as well. And while Kalahari Resorts envisioned a project taking up double the land with more hotel rooms and even an outdoor waterpark components with added touches such as a go-cart track and such, it demanded exclusivity meaning it wanted veto power on what the city allowed to be built on the remaining 180 acres of city owned land in the family entertainment zone to the north of the extension of Daniels Street. That included everything from barring additional restaurants to family-orientated entertainment. Great Wolf made no such demands.
Silverman lauded the negotiating process as a lot of give and take on both sides to reach a deal that was a “win-win’ for everyone.
“It is how you buy a car, it is how you buy a water park,” Silverman said, triggering a round of laughter.
Councilman Gary Singh also liked the fact Manteca will not be taking on debt or using taxpayers as collateral as Garden Grove did in Southern California when they negotiated a deal with the previous firm that owned Great Wolf.
“The key is the city is not on the hook,” noted Singh. “The project will create all the revenue.”
By that, Singh means the revenue Manteca is sharing over 25 years is room tax Great Wolf resort guests will pay with no other city funds being touched. The money would not be generated if a Great Wolf resort wasn’t built.
Councilman Mike Morowit — who replaced Vince Hernandez on the two-man council committee working on securing a waterpark developer when he stepped down from the council in 2016 — noted the deal is not complicated and is transparent. DeBrum has served on the committee since it was established by former Mayor Willie Weatherford.
“This is not more homes but family entertainment,” Morowit added.
Council members were pleased to hear a commitment from Great Wolf Vice President for Domestic Development Steve Jacobsen that the firm would conduct job fairs as the opening neared and would give preference to “qualified Manteca residents.”
“Great Wolf has not been greedy,” Morowit said.
Moorhead notes how
Manteca struck better deal
Vice Mayor Debby Moorhead noted that while the percentage split Great Wolf is receiving from room tax as part of the 25 year deal that’s on top of the $2 million base — 75 percent for the first 10 years and 50 percent for the last 15 years — is hirer than other California cities that use room tax incentives to land major projects, Manteca has a slower room tax at 9 percent. Most other cities are pushing 15 percent. As such, Moorhead notes Manteca is leveraging a lot more with its room tax sharing arrangement than similar deals in other California cities
Under the deal, Manteca has the ability to increase the room tax — by the vote of the people — by 12 percent which would effectively raise the room tax to 10 percent. Based on the annual room tax projections of $4.1 million with 70 percent occupancy, a bump in the room tax would raise $410,000, all of which would go to the city.
“This is great,” Moorhead said of the Great Wolf deal.
Moorhead and others credited City manager Tim Ogden and staff with working effectively representing Manteca’s interests.
Great Wolf, for its part, is a different company than when they started talking in earnest with Manteca eight years ago.
It was purchased by Centerbridge partners more than three years ago with an aim at building wealth by investing in Great Wolf that is not only the largest family of indoor waterparks in North America but it has a reputation of Disneyland when it comes to being attentive to its guests as well as ticklers form keeping the experience pristine.
There are now 15 Great Wolf resorts. They are opening another one in May in Georgia, in June in Illinois, and in Arizona in 2019. Manteca would be the firm’s 19th resort, second in California and third of the West Coast.
Jacobsen lauded Manteca for being “a rare city” that not only had a vision but understood the importance to having a shovel ready site in order to make that vision come true.
He noted that was a major factor in the decision to move forward with a Manteca resort as well as its location and the local workforce.
Great Wolf Development Director Bryson Heezen walked the council through the plans for the Manteca resort.
Great Wolf entrance
will face the west
The entrance will be orientated toward the west with the entrance off of Daniels Street con the western edge of the property. It was done to make Great Wolf the entrance anchor to the 210-acre FEZ that already includes the Big League Dreams sports complex hat also may be expanded. It will face the McKinley Avenue interchange expected to break ground by the time Great Wolf opens.
Heezen noted that when you turn off the entrance road and had up the divreway to the lobby “is when your vacation begins.
The main lobby — which may soar as high as four stories — is where a multitude of free family-style programs are offered for guests such as story time and children’s yoga. There is an Adventureland with everything from kids bowling, climbing walls, miniature golf, an arcade, laser games, rope climbing and more plus a sit-down restaurant, four restaurants in a food court and other options such as candy and ice cream vendors available to the public and resort guests. The sit down restaurant will include a larger outdoor dining area overlooking the resort’s swimming pool.
There will be 10,000 square feet of meeting rooms plus a 5,000-square-footan outdoor pavilion for cheer and dance competitions.
The 108,00-square-foot indoor water park also includes colorful tubes for rides that will just off the northern wall along Daniels Street.
Heron noted the 29 acre site is “heavily landscaped” to add to the ambiance created with Great Wolf’s mountain lodge architectural design.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com