Now that Manteca has snared Great Wolf, it’s time to make growth pay dividends for people who live here.
This, of course, will cost money.
So why not rethink the family entertainment zone and place at least two — if not more — of the amenities at the top of the recreation master plan list adopted by the City Council on land the city already owns to make them more economically feasible?
This includes an eight-acre aquatics center as well as a community center/community gym with possibly the envisioned sports complex as well.
The FEZ as it is conceptually designed includes similar elements but there is one gigantic flaw as far as anyone who lives in Manteca should be concerned. The recreation components are aimed primarily to snag out of town visitors. How many Manteca residents on a daily or weekly basis or going to use a field with extensive seating designed to lure competitive amateur events?
The FEZ is a good idea that can be made better with a little tweaking.
One of the goals is to lure dining and entertainment-style businesses such as laser tag to create a regional destination around a manmade lake.
It would seem to be a much more effective draw for developers trying to lure such private sector investment if the FEZ was a teeming community gathering place as well.
And let’s be clear about a few things. A swimming pool built in the 1960s for a town of 10,000 is woefully inadequate for a community of 81,450 quickly headed for 120,000. Manteca has no complex designed specifically to stage recreation classes and to accommodate dance classes as well as double as a community center.
Growth fees to pay part of the tab are in place and are now being collected. Manteca can ill-afford to sit on the money so they can pay cash for amenities given the rate of construction inflation will diminish the buying power of dollars long before enough are collected. At the same time another source of money — property assessment or parcel tax — will be needed to make amenities feasible.
The city has $2 million designated from the final redevelopment bond proceeds earmarked for community parks that could go toward the non-growth share of the cost. If you take existing city owned land that can account for another big chunk of the portion existing residents need to cover. Now you are coming within a range of a tax people might be willing to support as long as it maximizes bang for the buck.
The case for community recreation facilities as part of the FEZ include:
uThe city-owned Big League Dreams sports complex is already there with Monday through Thursday play devoted to local leagues plus the indoor soccer arena. The BLD is also looking to expand.
uCostco — the largest or second largest retail draw — is next door as is other exiting retail and dining. Great Wolf Resort with a conference center/hall is targeted to open its doors by early 2020. Toss in existing BLD traffic and a community recreation complex along with the rest of the FEZ and a manmade lake will make FEZ Manteca’s 21st century downtown or community gathering place. That doesn’t make downtown superfluous. Instead it complements it by providing a different mix. It would be the same if The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley meets its potential under a plan being considered by the owners to add apartment complexes.
uThe city is spending a sizable chunk of change on extending Daniels Street and infrastructure beneath it in connection with the Great Wolf project.
uThe possibility or relocating the Lathrop-Manteca ACE station to the FEZ opens the door for a second transit hub in Manteca. That means the community recreation facilities along with the FEZ would be on established bus routes making the area virtually universally accessible for everyone including kids. It also is just off the envisioned loop bike path of Manteca that is more than halfway in place with the Tidewater as well as legs along Atherton Drive and north of Lathrop Road.
uParking for the transit center as well as an aquatics center and community center/community gym could be shared to further reduce costs.
As much as some might like to have growth pick up the entire tab for amenities it simply isn’t legal to do so under California law.
That is why the FEZ location is prudent. The $2 million in RDA proceeds along with the land already owned by the city would make any tax proposal more effective.
If the parks and recreation offices were relocated to the FEZ, it would open up the Civic Center for a much needed expansion of the senior center. By having significant costs covered — the roughly 20 acres for community recreation and part of the money from bonds — a tax could also rehab existing parks and recreation facilities to have a positive impact throughout the community.
We’ve been hearing for years how growth will improve the quality of life in Manteca by providing desired amenities.
The time has come for the city to deliver.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.