Great Wolf Resorts should not under any circumstances be considered a slam dunk.
The devil is in the details that are still being hammered out for consideration by the Manteca City Council.
That said it is important that the entire concept that is being considered be given serious thought by everyone impacted including city residents. If you want to call it cheerleading, so be it, but the odds are there wouldn’t be a debate if you weren’t reading about the fact the city was even considering a deal to secure Great Wolf Resorts until such time a formal proposal was put up for consideration by the council.
The linchpin of the deal for Manteca is how much redevelopment investment it would take to leverage a significant infusion of money flowing into the general fund to help pay for public safety and other municipal services.
The figure bantered around based on similar Great Wolf resort ventures such as the one in the State of Washington where they have an investment partner and not ones in the Midwest that Great Wolf itself built indicates - according to the city - that Manteca could realize between $4 million and $6 million a year in revenue from a 15 percent room tax.
That isn’t something to dismiss just because you don’t like the idea of possibly paying a local rate of $109 for an off-season rate for a room for six people that provides access to an indoor water park in a temperature-controlled environment for all six people for two days when fog has socked in Manteca during the dead of January.
Is being indignant about what amounts to being able to enjoy a warm environment to have water fun at a cost of $9 per person per day to jettison the opportunity to have $4 million-plus a year to fund police, fire, parks, and streets?
And while the city shouldn’t in any case just open the redevelopment agency’s checkbook, why not use RDA funds to pump up the quality and level of local services if it makes sense for the community’s bottom line? If the state takes the RDA away as some are hoping on the wild assumption the state will actually keep a promise about where money they seize goes and puts it toward education it would mean Sacramento would control almost 85 percent of all property taxes you pay. In other words, a tax that was long considered local will just be another source of state revenue that people in Sacramento decide how it is spent.
The real question is does it make sense to simply rely on the state to perhaps give you a fish so you can eat when they are willing to give it to you or learn to fish so you won’t have to worry about starving.
Again, the RDA deal with Great Wolf when it finally pops up for public consumption may not make sense. But to dismiss it outright is akin to cutting off your arm before operating a chain saw because there is a slight chance it might get severed.
Some dismiss the 500 permanent jobs based on Great Wolf’s track record operating as a year-round resort because they won’t be head-of-household, Manteca needs jobs across the board. Not every job is going to command $75,000 a year with built-in pay escalation when money is flowing into government coffers. There needs to be $9 to $15 an hour jobs too. It can make a big difference for a lot of people especially if they don’t have to commute out-of-town to work.
And as far as concerns that it is “unfair” for Manteca to pay for local municipal services from what could be 20 percent of its general fund off special room taxes assessed on the rental of a room at Great Wolf Resort, what is wrong with that?
Every time you buy something at a store in Modesto or Stockton you’re helping those cities pay for their municipal services. And room taxes are a significant part of city budgets in places such as Anaheim and San Francisco.
With what we know so far, you could argue that the city shouldn’t let any deal go through without a higher special entertainment zone room tax. It doesn’t stop people from going to other Great Wolf Resorts and it won’t here either.
And while the evidence isn’t in for the jury to begin deliberation, if the city can leverage a $4 million annual return to the general fund that is shrinking toward $22 million by a financially reasonable one-time RDA investment based on what that would yield, then the deal should be given serious thought.