500-room hotel, 500 jobs & 500,000 visitors for Manteca
BY DENNIS WYATT
The biggest private sector investment ever in Manteca history — roughly $250 million — could create 500 permanent jobs, bring 500,000 more visitors a year to the city, provide an annual $18 million payroll, and cement Manteca’s image as the family play destination of the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
The Manteca City Council will consider an exclusive negotiation agreement with Great Wolf to develop 30 acres of municipal land into what will likely be a 500-room hotel with indoor water park, a family amusement center featuring everything from zip lines to a mini-bowling alley, five or more restaurants with seating and at least 10,000 square feet of conference center space.
Great Wolf’s Director of Development Bryson Heezen indicated at the Manteca Chamber of Commerce Lunch & Learn at Big League Dreams across Daniels Street from the proposed water park hotel resort that the goal is to break ground in the summer of 2018.
Heezen fielded a number of questions from attendees at the chamber luncheon, including concerns whether “locals” — as defined by individuals that aren’t guests of the hotel — would have access to the water park. Heezen provided two answers. One way would be through twice a year benefits for local non-profits where the agency selected would sell water park only tickets and keep the proceeds.
The other way is by renting a room that covers one night’s stay and two days of waterpark access.
Manteca Council Richard Silverman said Great Wolf is no different than a Hyatt Regency that restricts its pool use to hotel guests only.
How a stay at Great Wolf works
Heezen noted that Great Wolf substantially overbuilds its luggage storage area and locker rooms so they can offer guests maximum value.
Check in time for rooms are not until 3 p.m. But guests booking a room can access the water park when it opens that day. They also will have access to the water park the following day until closing even after they have checked out of their rooms.
The rooms aren’t your typical hotel rooms. Not only are they larger, but they also have theme rooms featuring special areas for kids such as a Wolf Den with bunk beds and separate TVs. The smallest theme room is designed for four to six people with larger ones accommodating up to eight people.
The resort offers standard, themed and premium rooms.
Based on Ground Mound Great Wolf Resort pricing in the Washington, a standard room for four is available currently for $199.99 a night. The lowest priced themed room — the KidKamp Suite — is currently $269.99 a night for up to eight guests. The lowest priced premium suite that accommodates up to six people is currently $319.99 a night.
The room rate includes two days of water park access plus other activities that are kid-orientated in the lobby area such as story time and other endeavors such as kids’ yoga and craft time.
Pricing varies with peak periods. In other words, during high demand periods such as holidays and such that $319.99 premium room at Ground Mound can runs high as $599.99 a night.
By controlling access, Heezen noted Great Wolf creates value for its hotel guests. The exclusivity allows guests to have much shorter lines than at a typical water park, and enhances security allowing parents more peace of mind.
“That way if a youngster wanted to go 100 times down the same slide they could easily do it,” Heezen noted.
General public access to restaurants and family entertainment zone
While non-room rental access to the water park is only twice a year, that is not the case with restaurants or the family entertainment zone known as Adventureland.
It is part of the new second generation of Great Wolf Lodges that includes 15 existing resorts, two under construction, and one that is expected to be announced shortly.
The Adventureland includes a rope course, zip line, miniature golf, mini-bowling alley, rock climbing wall, arcade, and more. It is all indoors and is accessed off the lobby. It is a pay to play, meaning guests as well as the general public are charged for each attraction.
There will be four or five different restaurants at the proposed Manteca resort. One would be a family sit down restaurant while another would be buffet style. Others typically include a Tex-Mex and American style dinning. That is in addition to other eating/drink places that typically include Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Dunkin’ Donuts, and other outlets such as a candy store.
All of the dining options — that between them will seat 2,100 people — are open to the public as well.
Heezen said Manteca’s location is appealing for a number of reasons.
It is a short vacation trip for those in the lucrative Bay Area market. And, just like Bass Pro Shops, they target a 100-mile market. Manteca happens to be at the epicenter of the third largest 100-mile market behind Los Angeles and Long Island.
Manteca also has completed the environmental work and political approvals that can typically take at least two years.
The site is also shovel ready. The city has spent $9 million in redevelopment agency bond proceeds on infrastructure that also will do double duty allowing the city to have less expensive gravity flow sewer serving the area south of the 120 Bypass. Plus, when the gravity system is up and running the existing forced sewer main will be cleaned and converted to transporting treated wastewater to parks and other areas south of the 120 Bypass, where it can be used to irrigate grass and other landscaping.
Altogether $15 million in RDA funds will be invested in the general area not only to make development of a water park resort possible but to develop other retail, business parks, and housing.
When Great Wolf first approached Manteca seven years ago they were basically a brand or operator. Since then they have gained the financial muscle to build and finance their own resorts.
With 20-plus years of experience, Great Wolf has a solid track record of success. Their primary marketing targets are families with young children from 2 to 12 years of age. That said the resort caters to people of all ages.
That marketing also has a lot of muscle. They will spend $5 million on advertising that specifically ties their resorts into the cities where they are located.
The Great Wolf investment in Manteca would come in at around $250 million.
Some 1,500 people would be employed constructing the resort immediately west of Costco along the 120 Bypass. There would be 500 jobs, 45 percent of which will be full-time. Most of the remaining jobs are part-time on a year-round basis, although a percentage will be seasonal.
A performance sharing agreement — for the room tax generated by the resort — between the city and Great Wolf would award the resort for making goals. That funding mechanism — expected to last 25 years — will help secure financing for the $250 million project. While the validity of the projections are now being verified as to their accuracy by a third party hired by the city that specializes in such an analysis, based on Great Wolf’s typical 70 percent room occupancy the room tax could generate $4 million a year. Preliminary numbers give Manteca roughly $1 million or twice of what it is now receiving from all other hotels in town.
That would be money that would flow into the general fund to help pay for municipal services.
The city would also receive roughly $600,000 from sales tax and property taxes. That’s against an additional $350,000 they anticipate it will cost to provide Great Wolf with services such as police and fire.
That means Manteca could see a net positive flow of $1.25 million annually from the resort in addition to $123,000 Measure M public safety tax that wasn’t included in the analysis as it is restricted only for police and fire services.
The exact size of the conference center hasn’t been determined though based on other Great Wolf resorts it will be at least 10,000 square feet.
Heezen expects it will accommodate between 1,000 and 2,500 people. The conference centers do not require hotel bookings to use.
The precise size of all amenities will be determined after the council approves the exclusive negotiating agreement. That’s because the final detailed plan will be a significant cost to Great Wolf. They don’t want to make such a relatively major investment without knowing it can go forward. And while the city and Great Wolf have ironed out basic details of the framework for the agreement, the more intense work will start after both parties are on the same general page.
City Manager Tim Ogden noted the city’s general fund will not be on the hook for a cent.
As for the room tax, the city is giving up part of the revenue being generated just for the next 25 years it would not receive if there wasn’t a water park resort project.
The impacts of Great Wolf are expected to go far beyond the proposed site on the extension of Daniels Street and the money flowing into the general fund to support city services.
Heezen said the resort company wants local entities to take advantage of the 500,000 consumers they would bring to Manteca. They have found that guests who do access places outside of their resorts during their stay are more likely to become repeat customers.
Those 500,000 guests often buy gas and will sometimes dine away from the resort. They will also shop, see movies and take in other attractions such as wine tasting and such.
That is in addition to an annual $18 million payroll. Great Wolf would be the city’s largest private sector employer after Doctors Hospital of Manteca.
Roughly 98 percent of the water in a Great Wolf resort is recycled.
“All of the water in the water park is the equivalent of one Olympic sized swimming pool,” Heezen pointed out.
Great Wolf resorts typically have a three-story, 21,000-square-foot facility they dub “The Bunker” that cleans and purifies the water they use as it is recycled. The same attention is paid to air quality inside the resort as well.