The Manteca Redevelopment Agency’s first big thing took a shuttered 362-acre sugar beet processing plant site and converted it into the economic juggernaut known as Spreckels Park.
The city is now moving closer to what could be the RDA’s last hurrah — investing upwards of $20 million in remaining bond proceeds to situate 210 acres of city-owned land once thought necessary for future expansion of the wastewater treatment plant into a major economic hub centered around family entertainment.
Upwards of $20 million will go toward putting in place major sewer, water, and storm drain lines as well as purple pipe for recycled water and extending Daniels Street among other infrastructure.
City Manager Karen McLaughlin said the work is being timed to allow McWhinney Development to break ground on a destination hotel, indoor waterpark, and conference center either later this year or in early 2017.
“We want to be in a positon so the work that we (the city) have to do will be in place so it doesn’t delay them,” McLaughlin said.
The FEZ project is bounded by the 120 Bypass, the wastewater treatment plant, BLD/Stadium Retail Center and McKinley Avenue.
McWhinney originally had Great Wolf Resorts lined up to operate the 500-room hotel and accompanying amenities.
In September a new chief executive officer took over Great Wolf just as the environmental impact report was being adopted by the Manteca City Council. The new CEO told McWhinney that he wanted to do his own “due diligence” and vet possible Bay Area sites. McWhinney, which is partnering with Great Wolf on a similar project in Garden Grove near Disneyland wasn’t about to put the Manteca resort on hold while Great Wolf spent months or even longer searching for a possible Bay Area location and doing market and feasibility study to compare it to the 120 Bypass location.
McWhinney was contacted almost immediately by other indoor waterpark resort firms based in Wisconsin where Great Wolf also got its start. The lure of the Manteca location included the extensive market work Great Wolf had already done in conjunction with McWhinney, the fact the land was tied up and appropriately zoned, the environmental review process that takes between two to four years for such a project in California was completed, and the fact infrastructure would be in place to accommodate a major undertaking.
And while the negotiations don’t preclude the possibility Great Wolf will be the ultimate operator, at McWhinney’s request the city has reconfigured the 210 acres in the family entertainment zone to put aside 60 acres instead of 30 acres for a destination resort.
Several of the Wisconsin operators McWhinney has been talking with have many more attractions than Great Wolf including miniature golf courses, larger indoor and outdoor water slides, bowling alleys, laze tag, climbing walls, and many components that the FEZ is seeking.
Unlike Great Wolf that wanted a 99-year lease for the 30 acres owned by the city, the leading candidate to operate the resort may want to have a deal structured where the land is sold by the city.
Also, unlike Great Wolf, the other potential operator wouldn’t limit waterpark access just to hotel guests. Great Wolf only wanted to have limited access for locals that didn’t book a hotel room for about six times during the course of a year.
That didn’t sit too well with some Manteca residents that didn’t like the idea of the city being involved with a commercial venture they essentially couldn’t access unless they booked a hotel room in their hometown.
Overall the city has roughly $40 million left to spend from the sale of RDA bonds that has been earmarked for specific projects.
While $20 million is set aside for southwest Manteca economic development and community parks that is essentially the FEZ project, the balance has been committed to undertakings such as the upgrading of the Union Road interchange on the 120 Bypass and additional subsidized senior housing on Cottage Avenue and the Highway 99 overcrossing.
RDA money can only be used for projects that bonds were sold to investors for.
It doesn’t preclude the city from shifting money from one project to another on the approved list. It is why if the infrastructure costs are higher than anticipated, Milo Candini Drive may not be extended from the Big League Dreams sports complex to Yosemite Avenue as noted among the southwest Manteca economic development projects.