Representatives from McWhinney Development — the firm looking to invest upwards of $200 million to build a Great Wolf Resort in Manteca — were in town earlier this month to meet with city officials.
They had tried to book hotel rooms in Manteca for the mid-week meeting but were stunned to find that Best Western, the Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and LaQuinta Inn were all filled — 448 rooms in all. They ended up staying in Stockton.
“They were surprised,” City Manager Karen McLaughlin said. “It’s usual for the hotels to be all booked during weekends (because of Big League Dreams) but not midweek.”
And while it isn’t a common-day occurrence, having hotels all fill up mid-week is happening.
Mayor Steve DeBrum said friends visiting midweek ran into the same problem.
“They couldn’t get a room in Manteca,” DeBrum said.
Hotels are experiencing an upswing in travelers who see Manteca as an ideal home base to explore Northern California, to stay going to or from Yosemite, or as preferred alternative to Modesto and Stockton hotels.
And with a decision on the 500-room Great Wolf Resort nearing as well as plans for a $4 million 57-room Microtel budget hotel on Airport Way being processed at city hall, DeBrum believes tourism could emerge as a major driving force for the local economy.
Great Wolf is planning to add 570 jobs — including 414 permanent full-time jobs — for an annual payroll approaching $10 million.
The two proposed hotels would bring the number of Manteca rooms to 1,005.
The chances are good that Manteca could end up with several hundred more hotel rooms in the near future.
That’s because the Great Wolf indoor water park resort project also includes a 20,000-square-foot conference center that the city will own and Great Wolf will manage.
Based on Great Wolf surveys at other locations that have conference centers, half of those who attend functions and who are from out-of-town stay overnight at other nearby hotels and not Great Wolf.
In any case, McLaughlin said the vacancy rate of existing motels are expected to drop once the conference center is up and running.
“The (overall seven-day) occupancy rate for Manteca hotels could easily go from 60 to 80 percent,” McLaughlin said using hypothetical numbers as an example.
Either which way, Great Wolf would drive more hotel bookings at existing or future hotels. That in turn would increase city room tax receipts that are now at $678,000 a year.
The last time the city commissioned a study, PKF Consultants a decade ago indicated Manteca had a 68 percent room occupancy rate with the numbers dropping to the high 50s in the winter season and the low 80s in summer. That was before the Hampton Inn opened. Sundays were determined to be the weakest night for hotel stays in Manteca.
The draft environmental report for both the Great Wolf Resort and the adjoining family entertainment zone — both that are proposed for city-owned property west of Costco between the 120 Bypass and Big League Dreams sports complex — is scheduled for a public hearing in 11 days before the Manteca Planning Commission. Following the Sept 8 planning commission review it will be presented to the City Council on Oct. 6.
Once the environmental impact report is approved it sets in motion other documents that the council would need to consider before making a final decision that is expected before the end of the year.