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Several reasons why city recreation complex needs to go north of BLD
Dennis Wyatt
Dennis Wyatt

Growing up in Lincoln I lived three doors down from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

There was a lot of advantages to this. The Placer County Holy Ghost Association festa that took place at Lincoln’s McBean Park included two parades — one to take the old and new queens with the crown to the church for blessing and another to return to the park. It was a full-scale parade more like the Fourth of July parade in Manteca where the entire community turned out — high school bands, horse groups, car buffs, and Boy Scouts on bicycles joined the procession. It had a full-blown carnival that ran for four days. It is why the third Sunday in May each year there were 10,000 people who turned out for the festa and parade with much of the route lined with lawn chairs and family gatherings in front yards on a scale even larger than in Ripon during the Almond Blossom Festival.

While the queens and others were in the church blessing, the Portuguese band that accompanies the queens usually gathered under the giant sycamores in our front yard.

The church also gave me one of my favorite Christmas memories even though I never stepped foot inside of it on Dec. 24. Midnight mass on Christmas Eve would fill the air with joyous noise and rich allegories. I’d walk down — usually in the fog — and just take in the sights and sounds of the overflow crowd that usually included a number of people huddled outside the entrance bundled against the chill.

At other times living by the church was not a thrill — at least for many people in a block and a half radius. That’s because the church that had the largest congregation in town at the time has been built on two city housing lots that included the parsonage. It had no off street parking. There was also a robust Assembly of God Church a half block away. The saving grace were Lincoln’s almost 80 foot-wide residential streets in parts of the original town site allowed the city to post signs indicating diagonal parking was allowed during church services and events. This came in handy especially since almost directly across the street from us on either side of the Lucas family home was the parish hall that hosted everything from bingo games and wedding receptions and a framed house that later was finished into a home for a family to live in that was used for Sunday school classes. Then on top of that directly across from our house for years was a giant blue recycling bin dropped on the street where people in Lincoln dropped their newspapers in a bid to help with a fund for a new church building. 

Pardon the expression, but you could understand why finding a place on the street for anyone in our family or visitors to park anywhere near our house was hell at times.

I always viewed street parking as public parking up for grabs to the first takers. Given almost all the homes near the church if they had garages were located in the back of the home  off the alley with no room to simply park meant a full-scale “park it in the garage” undertaking was needed. That explains why most people living near the Catholic Church were frustrated more than once a week.

It is why even though I think every piece of asphalt tax dollars are spent on should be maximized to the fullest even if it is just for on-street parking I have empathy for those that live around Woodward Park when there are soccer tournaments and such. Streets will be jammed with cars for blocks around.

I will say, however, that church goers don’t litter nor do they block driveways, or block fire hydrants as soccer enthusiasts have been known to do in Manteca. It might have something to do with churchgoers usually don’t haul snacks and drink coolers into church and the fact in Lincoln you likely knew whose home you were parking in front of and someone in your family or close circle of friends was part of what was then an all-volunteer fire department.

Why this is important is there are noises being made that the 38 acre city-owned site north of the Big League Dreams sports complex can’t be used for a proposed aquatics center, nine soccer fields and a 72,000-square-foot community recreation center/gym as it is part of the family entertainment zone tied up in a contract to be marketed to investors.

That’s shortsighted and faulty thinking.

First of all, that is exactly the type of city investment Manteca needs so the consultant can snag all of the restaurants and family style entertainment venues needed to meet the desires Manteca residents have expressed for years that they wanted as well as to make the FEZ work.

The recreational complex that would get muscular local use during the week is expected to be a tournament draw — much like the neighboring BLD complex — that would lead to dropping at least another $6.1 million a year into the local economy through restaurants, gas purchases, and even booking motel rooms. 

The adjoining 525 space parking lot at the BLD complex has only been full a few times and that was during Fourth of July celebrations and aerial fireworks viewing a few years back. Locate the recreation complex north of BLD and the existing parking can be used as overflow instead of other locations where it would be in the front of people’s homes or retail businesses.

The city is also dropping $40 million into creating an interchange nearby at McKinley Avenue and the 120 Bypass. Why go for other sites that are as not as close to the freeway with such easy access but instead require further clogging of major arterials and turning residential streets into de facto parking lots along with traffic that would make the manager of an In-n-Out Burger envious.

Manteca needs to move forward with a recreation complex in the most affordable and problem free location possible. The 38 acre site meets the criteria as it is all city owned and not in an area that will impact other uses.

The FEZ was conceived originally with the idea of doing just what the city has sketched out on the 38 acres to get the needed synergy when combined with BLD and Great Wolf to lure family entertainment style investments including possibly an outdoor water park on the scale of Raging Waters. Instead of going in the heart of the FEZ where arguably the land is prime it is on a sliver extending away from the Main are sandwiched between the BLD and wastewater treatment plant. This is not an area where a Buster & Dave’s Restaurant would be located or even an amusement style business such as laser tag given it is tucked away from main arterials and where all of the high profile action takes place.

The city needs not to waste time. And they also need to make sure the FEZ — that is the biggest  public-private venture Manteca has ever attempted — succeeds and is done right.

If it requires reworking a contract to do it, the city council has a moral obligation to do so to the 85,000 Manteca residents many of them who keep hearing how all of the investments the city has made with tax and RDA money will one day pay big dividends for the people that live here in terms of amenities and the ability to support them.

Give the consultant the tools needed to make the FEZ work. Give a community of almost 100,000 a recreation complex.

And in order to do that the city needs to make all the right moves now, instead of later so a solid case can be made for voters in November 2020 to support a tax to address current recreation deficiencies for residents — adults and children — as well as future needs while at the same time creating a perfect carrot to lure more restaurants and such.

The city can’t waste time shopping for another site when they already have identified what is the best site for city residents as well as to further strengthen the economic well-being of both Manteca in general as well as city government finances.

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 or 209.249.3519.