The smartest decision made by the Manteca City Council during the past 10 years?
A strong contender would be the Big League Dreams sports complex.
The complex – savagely criticized during the four -year political incubation period from when it was first proposed and finally broke ground – is proving to be the economic salvation of a number of private sector jobs.
Where Bass Pro Shops has helped prop sales tax revenue up that has helped minimize damage to municipal services and city jobs during the Great Recession, BLD has provided a lifeline to a variety of businesses that cater to those from out-of-Manteca who play and watch weekend tournaments.
Every weekend since it has been opened – including holiday weekends at Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Years – there has been at least one out-of-town tournament booked at the complex.
You don’t need a model to see the trickledown effect.
You can see it in the adults and youth wearing softball uniforms at restaurants ranging from Chili’s to Applebee’s to Kelley Brothers, and to Chilaberry’s. They fill most Manteca hotel rooms over the weekend. You see them in the theater and even stores like Costco and Kohl’s where families get in shopping during long stretches between games.
Joe Kelley underscored the impact when he noted that business from the BLD crowd that has played a key role during the last two years for Manteca’ s largest restaurants – Kelley Brothers Brewing Co. – to stay open.
Willie Weatherford served as the political voodoo doll for those who were adamantly opposed to BLD who described it as everything from corporate welfare to a boondoggle. Weatherford – who is now mayor – made the argument that BLD made sense not just from the city’s standpoint but the community in terms of the amount of money traveling teams spend in local restaurants, motels, and other services.
He should know. Weatherford has traveled the West as an adult softball player dropping plenty of change along the way.
For whatever reason, softball is relatively recession proof. A lot of it may have to do with it is family orientated. Some of it has to do with it is a mini-vacation of sorts for participants and spectators alike. But what it really does is bring to Manteca families that aren’t as stressed as others.
While they may not be dropping bucks around like Daddy Warbucks, they are spending enough green to be noticed on the bottom lines of a number of businesses.
BLD over the course of 35 years will generate close to $10.5 million in payments to the City of Manteca based on current trends. Another $17.5 million in payroll and maintenance costs the city would have been on the hook for if the complex was managed by the city will be avoided. The complex cost $30 million in redevelopment agency funds to build.
A similar complex much like Tracy’s without the bells and whistles and a soccer facility would have cost about $16 million. The city would have been on the hook for almost as much for the construction cost over 35 years for maintenance and operating. That means the true cost to the city had it gone the conventional route would still have been almost $30 million. But in that scenario the money would have not been offset by anything and a traditional softball complex basically brings in money to cover the running of leagues and nothing else.
The real gravy for Manteca comes in what people who are attracted to BLD’s atmosphere and how well they are catered to dump into the Manteca economy.
Manteca without a Bass Pro Shops would have even less general fund money and an even tighter city budget.
But Manteca without a BLD would have higher private sector unemployment and a lot more businesses teetering on edge or falling into the crevice.
In short, the $30 million invested in BLD is indeed stimulating the economy.