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The Family City is about to join the rank of destination resort locations
CEO great wolf


Manteca get ready to walk on the wild side.

In an unlikely take on the Field of Dreams tale, the city has taken what was a corn field for years that was irrigated with treated wastewater and partnered with the private sector to open a destination resort.

In less than four months upwards of 4,000 people a day will be flocking to Great Wolf Resort Manteca where the sound of a howl in a cavernous 95,000-square-foot temperature controlled setting will mean a manmade wave will run through a water play area in 30 seconds triggering squeals of delight and laughter from kids splashing about in the rush of water.

They’ll be loud heart thumping from those in the Wolf’s Tail — a trademark Great Wolf thrill water park ride where the floor gives out from under you and sends you on an exhilarating spiral to a cool splashdown.

Kids will be huddled, smiling, and laughing together as they wait for a massive bucket of 1,000 gallons of water to crash down upon them every three to four minutes.

A hundred or so yards away kids will be burning off energy on a gigantic Tom Sawyer inspired creation of things to climb, walk across and to inspire the imagination while on the surrounding space below them people will be eating, drinking and being merry accessing six different dining options and amusement offerings running the gamut from high tech MagiQuest to low-tech Ten Paw bowling scaled down to a “just right” size for kids.

And to complete the resort picture a massive outside swimming pool complete with cabanas equipped with flat screen TVs, Internet access, mini-refrigerators, lounge furniture and the attendant service all surrounded by upscale landscaping just a skip and a holler from Costco.

It’s a setting topped with 500 rooms and anything but a plain Jane 12,000-square-foot conference center that reminds you of the grand  fantasy creations on the Las Vegas Strip but designed with kids and families in mind.

What better fit for The Family City that is still known by many as the site of one of the first outdoor water parks in the country — the Manteca Waterslides — that stood just a little over a mile to the southwest as the crow flies from the massive fireplace in the heart of the Great Wolf grand lobby.

It is safe to say this is not your father’s water park or more aptly this is not the late Robert “Budge” Brown’s water park.

They are light years apart in design and execution.

Brown built on the simple appeal of the old swimming hole with a tire swing. Great Wolf — and the modern indoor water parks — have taken it to a whole new level where kids and families can frolic in the water year round.

The naysayers from the moment a dozen years ago Manteca city leaders started talking about luring a firm here to build an indoor water park resort pooh-poohed the idea saying no one would want to go indoors from spring to early fall in this neck of the woods due to our Mediterranean climate. They got the appeal during the stark, cold days of winter when often times the Central Valley can be “socked in” by tule fog for a week or so at a time with temperatures barely moving during a 24-hour period staying in the 45 to 50 degrees range while the sun goes AWOL.

But what they forgot about was how it isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience to play in a water park on a 100-degree day, on a 90-degree day with the wind blowing or on a more temperate summer evening where the mercury has started dropping below 80 degrees as the soothing Delta winds kick in to make being anywhere outside a pleasant experience save for being in the water where you can get a chill down your spine despite the temperature.

The resort experience is built around the water being a constant 82 degrees with the air temperature being two degrees warmer all the time winter, spring, summer or fall as well as day and night.

Given this is California that despite its lush valleys that yield nearly 70 percent of this nation’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts to make it the USA’s most productive farm state by far outpacing No. 2 Texas by almost $20 billion it actually mimics a desert climate for much of the year, water conservation spurred by a historic cycle of droughts that are often severe and prolonged is a big issue.

Using responsible water use as a measure, Great Wolf not only beats Manteca Waterslides and its modern predecessors such as Raging Waters hands down, but they put your backyard swimming pool to shame.

The entire Great Wolf water park at any given time has just enough water in play to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The water is all recycled using non-sand based cutting edge equipment that engineers maintain. That, combined with the fact there is no evaporation means water loss is at an extreme minimum of less than 2 percent a day.

That compares to studies that show typical backyard swimming pools in the Los Angeles Basin that have racked up a few years of use lose more water than that through micro leaks. Toss in evaporation and the water loss rate skyrockets.

Brown was a farmer meaning he knew he had to use water wisely as it is a scarce resource and costs money. But he created the Manteca Waterslides because he basically created a big hole on his property selling dirt to the state to build the elevated sections of the 120 Bypass and Interstate 5. Besides the fact San Joaquin County has an ordinance prohibiting farmers from creating big holes and leaving them empty, his location near the San Joaquin River meant the high water table led to water seeping into the big hole that he created. That led to the founding of Oakwood Lake Resort. His experience on a “water slide” in a natural setting while vacationing in Hawaii led to the Manteca Waterslides ideas employing what are now considered primitive concrete water slides. Brown, ever the entrepreneur and inventor, eventually became the first to deploy fiberglass water slides.

Great Wolf in conjunction with the neighboring Big League Dreams sports complex will easily bring 1 million people to Manteca each year with one common purpose — to have fun.

It will give the Manteca economy a dimension that has a depth that Internet startups can’t disrupt and will provide 500 dependable year round jobs with another 100 jobs during seasonal peaks.

The day it opens it will leapfrog Doctors Hospital of Manteca as the largest single private sector employer in Manteca.

Jobs, a destination resort catering to as many as 4,000 people a day spending money to have family fun, and initially $2.2 million in taxes a year paid by non-city residents to fund municipal services is definitely something to howl about.