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Manteca family fun zone must be inclusive, not just for moneyed
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It is clear there are a significant number of people out there who would like Manteca to have another public swimming pool.

Included among those are some who view the ultimate answer as an aquatics center that would also accommodate competitive swimming.

Support to include some type of aquatics center was voiced at a public brain storming session last month for the proposed family entertainment zone of nearly 200 acres that would encompass the Big League Dreams sports complex and possibly a Great Wolf Resort indoor water park, hotel, and conference center.

An aquatics center in Manteca and California returning to the Republican column in a presidential election are both within the realm of possibility but don’t count on either happening any time soon. In the case of the aquatics center it comes down to money. Lots of money to build it and lots of money to maintain and operate it compared to other public amenities on the city’s wish list including a library.

The Los Angeles-based consultant hired to devise a plan for the entertainment zone might include an aquatics center, but it won’t mean much. The entertainment zone concept they deliver will reflect what they believe is market demand and within the realm of possibility, In short, it will be a fairly obvious boiler plate design that someone working with demographics, location, and what’s in the existing consumer market could devise from an office on the moon.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

There is a strong likelihood the consultant’s proposal targeted for presentation to the Manteca City Council on Sept. 20 will include a manmade lake and some type of interactive water play feature. The lake could emerge as the focal point of the entire zone.

What is doubtful is whether the Los Angeles consultant has any real vision or understanding of the Central Valley and what it is like to live here day in and day out.

That is why it would make sense for someone on the City Council to suggest a tweak to the plan based on a highly successful model just 25 minutes or so away from Manteca - Lodi Lake.

The most popular swimming spot in that city isn’t a public swimming pool. It is an area of relatively shallow water in Lodi Lake. It attracts kids and teens in droves to swim in areas marked by floating “hoses” connected to buoys that are watched over by lifeguards just like a pool. There is also a sandy beach that attracts plenty of sunbathers - young and old - who simply “chill” for hours on end. There is also a wading pool that was built next to a complex with showers that could also include lockers.

Lodi Lake also offers paddle boat rentals.

The big difference is Lodi Lake has access to the Mokelumne River. Manteca Lake wouldn’t access any river.

Instead, it would be a self-contained lake at a center of a zone Manteca leaders envision to serve local and regional residents.

It would not cost $40 million to build such a swimming feature as it piggybacks on the main attraction. Nor would it bankrupt the city to operate it.

But more importantly it is a place that would be virtually universally affordable for young people in Manteca. As much as a lot of people want to see a public outdoor water park included it still would cost about $30 a day to access. Lodi Lake costs a couple of bucks to enjoy a swim.

Add to the fact the entertainment zone ultimately would be accessed via Manteca Transit and it would be quite possible for any youth in Manteca with a few dollars to get there and enjoy the water.

Let’s be honest.

Most components of whatever is built within the family entertainment zone will be accessed by people with the means to do so. Even in good times, it is a struggle for many Manteca families to splurge on luxuries such as eating out at a sit-down restaurant that might overlook the lake or pay for a wide variety of entertainment options ranging from laser tag, admittance to a traditional water park, or miniature golf.

Manteca - as the self-proclaimed Family City - must not pursue a family entertainment zone where those with less means could only simply press their faces against the proverbial window.

There needs to be a feature included upfront and not later that makes the family entertainment zone universally accessible.

A swimming feature modeled after Lodi Lake could do the trick.