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Mayor not all warm & fuzzy about FEZ
This conceptual land use plan shows how the citys 140 acres could be developed as a family entertainment zone. Costco is in the middle on the bottom Airport Way on the far right, McKinley Avenue on the far left and the municipal wastewater treatment plant at the top. - photo by Map contributed

Manteca is moving forward with a strategy to tap even more into the $7 billion that American families spend each year traveling to youth sporting events.

Using the Big League Dreams sports complex as the first phase, the council on a 4-1 vote Tuesday blessed a plan to convert 140 acres that are now a part of the municipal wastewater treatment plant into a family entertainment zone or FEZ.

It is strategy that relies not just on 1.3 million people who reside within a 30-mile radius of Manteca and the 800,000 Yosemite bound tourists that pass through on the 120 Bypass, but also markets within a two-hour drive of Manteca.

That 100-mile market of 17 million people has already allowed BLD to draw 430,000 people each year making it the most successful of all of its replica baseball complexes. It also helps Bass Pro Shops lure 2.9 million visitors a year to their Manteca store.

The council action secured ANF Development to help the city snare private sector users. But concerns that a FEZ pushed by the city and not the market won’t be nearly as effective for Manteca as the Great Wolf Lodge project, Mayor Willie Weatherford cast the lone dissenting vote.

The mayor also had reservations about roughly 90 acres of the project that would be tied up in sports and entertainment venues essentially operated by the  city such as soccer fields, baseball fields, skate park, and such would lack sufficient revenue to offset the operation costs.

He noted that the Northgate Park softball complex costs the city over $100,000 a year to maintain against $7,000 in revenues from the snack bar. Before BLD opened, the city realized $37,000 in annual revenues for roughly a $70,000 shortfall when it comes to covering the coasts.

The conceptual plan for the family entertainment zone (FEZ) includes:

• a 400-room destination family entertainment hotel - Great Wolf - with a 75,000-square-foot indoor water park and 20,000-square-foot conference center.

• a destination restaurant.

• a new west entry to the BLD complex.

• an indoor all-seasons sports and expo center with four basketball courts that would allow alternative use for volleyball, cheer competitions, badminton, gymnastics, wrestling or exhibit space.

• an outdoor soccer/concert stadium, with 500 fixed seats and space for expansion.

• fields for soccer, football, lacrosse, rugby, and field hockey.

• additional baseball and softball fields for youth play.

• a retail food and beverage zone.

• an immersive outdoor retailer.

• an outdoor amphitheatre with stadium-style seating for competitions and performances.

• ESPN-style microbrewery.

• manmade lake with boardwalk with kayaks, canoes paddle board and paddle boat rentals.

• beach volleyball.

• destination playground.

• outdoor performance space including a band shell stage or gazebo with lakeside seating for 500.

• party pavilions and party boats.

• a family entertainment zone including go karts, Lazertag, ball crawl, arcade, mini-golf, black-light bowling, and refreshments.

• an adventure zone with zip lines, rope course, rock climbing wall, whitewater course primarily for rafts and kayaks, stunt BMX race course and hard surface skate park for competitions complete with spectator bleachers, and a FlowRider (a device that generates waves you can surf).

There would also be RV and bus parking complete with a bus terminal. The complex also would involve the placement of a tour center to direct people to tours in the Delta, Yosemite area, wineries and agricultural attractions.