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Waterslides & Manteca still inseparable
People still associate city with water park six years later
The Manteca Waterslides enjoyed a 30-year run before closing in 2004. - photo by Bulletin file photo
Linda Abledt was getting ready to cross the street a few years ago while on vacation in London.

The Manteca Visitors Center executive director struck up a conversation with another American who asked where she was from. She replied a small town in California called Manteca.

Without missing a beat the fellow American replied, “oh, I know where Manteca is. It’s where the water slides are.”

Even now the visitors’ center gets two to three walk-ins at their location in the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley from out-of-town folks asking for directions to the Manteca Waterslides.

“We were getting a lot more each month until Caltrans finally took down the directional signs to Oakwood Lake Resort (from along the 120 Bypass) a few months ago,” Abeldt said.

The staying power of Manteca branded in the minds of millions of Northern California residents as “the home of the Manteca waterslides” is one if the reasons why a city bid to solicit private investors to develop a water park next to the Big League Dreams sports complex has attracted a lot of interest.

The waterslides are also part of the Manteca psyche.

The City Council back in the early part of the year retained AKF Development to help it solicit proposals to develop a water park. During the recent council campaign, Councilman John Harris said the No. 1 thing that people brought up on their own was “when are we going to get waterslides back in Manteca?”

“It’s kind of eerie but I haven’t heard one person tell me yet they’re against trying to bring the waterslides back,” noted Mayor Willie Weatherford.

Weatherford - like many longtime Manteca residents - also has his waterslide story from his travels. His happened in Las Vegas several years ago when he mentioned to someone he was from Manteca. They immediately responded by saying that was where the waterslides are.
The Budge Brown family heavily advertised the waterslides during the 30 years they were in existence. Before they closed down in 2004 the waterslides were a popular stop for Bay Area residents and foreign tourists returning from Yosemite.

“They (the Visitors Center) had a consultant come in and tell them a few years back about the importance of developing a brand for Manteca,” Weatherford said. “You can’t get a better brand than what Manteca has with the waterslides. Whoever ends up coming here and whatever they name it all they have to do is refer to it as the Manteca waterslides and they’ll have high recognition.”

Abeldt agreed saying if a new water park does open it will have instance recognition throughout the north state.

The high interest in the Manteca water park has more to do with three critical factors. First, the city is willing to partner with the right private sector group by providing the land next to BLD. The fact BLD books out-of-town tournaments every weekend including Christmas and other holidays from throughout Northern California and draws 450,000 paid spectators a year.

 It also has to do with Manteca’s unique position being at the epicenter of the third largest 100-mile radius market in the United States - with 17 million consumers behind Los Angeles and New York -  than it does with Manteca forever being joined at the hip with the concept of water slides.

At the time Manteca Waterslides closed in 2004 they held the record for being the longest running water park in California based on the fact they were the first. They were also the largest at the time they closed.

The Brown family was dealing with stiff competition from new water parks in Concord and Roseville that were basically carbon copies of each other and located in urban markets. The drop in business coupled with rising workers compensation costs, the expense of trying to keep up by modernizing even more, and the desire to retire prompted them to put the waterslides on the market.

The only interest was from a developer who envisioned creating a gated water front community known as Oakwood Shores.

The city is reporting talking to several private sector groups interested in opening a water park in Manteca.