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Pursuing family entertainment zone
Manteca, Great Wolf may ink exclusive negotiating agreement
A computer model of what a proposed 600-room Great Wolf Resort Lodge would look like on 30 acres west of Costco. - photo by Image Contributed

Part of the $45 million in redevelopment agency funds Manteca is expected to get control of back from the state could end up being the linchpin to turn 140 acres owned by the city into a regional family entertainment zone anchored by Big League Dreams and a proposed Great Wolf Resort.

The City Council sitting as the successor agency to the now defunct Manteca Redevelopment Agency will meet at 8 o’clock Tuesday morning at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

The successor agency board is being asked to:

• receive a report on the proposed establishment of the Manteca Family Entertainment Zone and direct City Manager Karen McLaughlin to proceed with the necessary steps to begin implementation of project elements and infrastructure.

• direct McLaughlin to negotiate an exclusive negotiating agreement with McWhinney Corporation pertaining to the Great Wolf Lodge project.

• negotiate an agreement with ANF Development pertaining to the Manteca Family Entertainment Zone.

McLaughlin noted Thursday that McWhinney, a Colorado-based developer, is still in ongoing talks with the city about the possibility of building a 400 to 600 room resort hotel with a 75,000-square-foot indoor water park plus conference center on 30 acres owned by the city directly west of Costco.

Public infrastructure on the city owned property is considered crucial to the possibility of Great Wolf moving forward. Besides sewer, water and storm drain mains it would cover extending Daniels Street to connect it with McKinley Avenue along with the Tidewater-style lighting and landscaping.

Initial traffic analysis for Great Wolf makes it essential there are two access points to the resort given traffic volumes it will generate in connection with BLD and the nearby Stadium Retail Center.

The $45 million is the receipts of bond sales that have yet to be spent. The state took over redevelopment agencies last year with the intent of taking tax revenue generation not committed to retiring existing debt and obligations in order to help cover the state’s budget shortfall. At the time it wasn’t clear what would happen to the bond receipts still on hand at the various agencies but not yet spent.

Since the bonds were sold for specific projects, the legislature took action this past summer to return that money to the RDAs after an independent audit was done of each agency.

Some of that $45 million had already been designated for extending Daniels Street. McLaughlin said they are also checking with legal counsel to see what other RDA funds could go toward public infrastructure for the family entertainment zone. More than $2 million, as an example, had been set aside for infrastructure improvements within the RDA boundaries while other funds were set aside for a community park. The entertainment zone may qualify since the heart of the complex includes a large manmade lake with public recreation on the water and along its shores. Several of the components are clearly park-like such as additional baseball fields for youth play.

The city is also looking at the manmade lake to double as a storm retention basin just like the interior lakes in the nearby River Islands at Lathrop. River Islands is expected break ground on its first homes in early 2013.

Union Road interchange funding is involved as well

Some of the RDA money is committed to making improvements to the Union Ranch interchange to widen the bridge deck to four lanes and improve on and off ramps.

McLaughlin is hopeful that the audit process will go quickly enough that the city could start moving forward on projects funded with the $45 million by early 2013.

McLaughlin confirmed that the city is looking at ways to perhaps assist with very specific improvements to the 30-acre site that Great Wolf is looking at that they will either buy or lease from the city.

“Obviously, we can’t do anything that is strictly commercial in its use,” McLaughlin said.

Possible candidates for city participation would include the conference center component as long as arrangements were made for general public use when it isn’t used by gathering at Great Wolf as well as the parking lot. In such a scenario, the parking lot would be available to the general public for uses such as commuter parking and overflow parking from nearby entertainment venues.

McLaughlin said the city will explore its options whether it is a split of future sales tax, property tax, or room tax until such time as whatever component the city assists with is paid off.

Since Great Wolf would generate little sales tax, the two most likely taxes sharing source would be property or room tax.

The assessed valuation of the resort should it build 600 rooms and not 400 rooms is $200 million. With a one percent tax rate, the complex would generate $2 million a year to various agencies from the school district and county to the city.

A special room tax for the entertainment zone could also generate money for the city to retire debt that it may incur with infrastructure or participating in some manner with the site development.

McLaughlin noted other financing options are on the table as well.

That said, she emphasized no deal or commitment has been made.

“Both sides are still exploring,” she said.

McWhinney started negotiating with the city in March 2010 before changes in the redevelopment agency occurred. Tuesday’s request is aimed at underscoring how serious both sides are to trying to determine if a project is feasible.