BY JASON CAMPBELL
The Great Wolf Resort at Manteca has cleared its first major hurdle.
The Manteca Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve a master plan agreement, parcel map extension, disposition development agreement and development agreement with the Wisconsin-based company that marks the beginning of the end of more than a decade’s worth of discussions to bring the sought-after entity to the city.
It will still take a vote of the Manteca City Council, acting on the recommendation of the planning commission, to initially adopt the development agreement that will make the 510,000-square foot resort facility – which will include a 500-room, 310,000-square foot hotel with a 100,000-square foot indoor water park, 51,000-square foot family entertainment center as well as 12,000-square feet of meeting rooms and 16,000-square feet of restaurant space – a reality.
Local developer Bill Filios, who first spoke to Great Wolf’s Director of Development Bryson Heezen more than a decade ago about possibly bringing the destination resort and water park to the city, said that it was a “good” day for the community and something that people have been looking forward to for a long time.
“This has been a long time coming,” Filios said. “I’m glad that this day is finally here.”
If the council signs off on the request when they meet next week – and the necessary resolutions are adopted after a second reading later next month – then Manteca would be the home of the 19th Great Wolf Lodge in the United States, and the second in the state after the company’s largest park to date in Southern California.
And the impacts to Manteca, if approved, would be felt almost immediately.
According to Heezen’s presentation, the company estimates that the Manteca location would serve 500,000 visitors annually, and generate $4.3 million worth of new hotel room occupancy tax revenue – some of which, per an agreement, would go back to Great Wolf in order to cover the costs of construction the facility believed to cost north of $250 million.
Per the agreement, the City of Manteca would keep all of the new sales, property and Measure M taxes, and the company could inject roughly $20 million into the local economy in just payroll and benefit costs alone to employ the 500-people required to operate the resort.
A full financial impact study that measures the economic impact of the resort has been commissioned by the City of Manteca, and will be available prior to the council’s final decision.
The resort is being touted as the potential anchor to the City of Manteca’s 210.7-acre parcel on the west side of the city just north of Highway 120. The Family Entertainment Zone, as it has been dubbed, incorporates the existing 28-acre Big League Dreams facility and provides an additional 25-acres to expand Big League Dreams and provide soccer fields at a future date.
As part of the city’s FEZ designation, 29 acres of the nearly 211 acres available was set aside to secure a hotel/lodge with a convention center and indoor water park, and while negotiations between the city and Great Wolf made it appear like a deal would never be worked out, city staff – under the direction of Manteca City Manager Tim Ogden – broke the stalemate.
Great Wolf, which will be located kitty-corner to BLD, will be another public-private partnership between the city and a massive regional draw constructed on city-owned property that’s being sold as part of the heavily-negotiated contract between the two entities. An additional seven acres of property located just behind Great Wolf, which will be built just west of the existing Costco location at the western edge of Daniels Street, may be purchased by Great Wolf at a later date for further expansion if their business model cites the need. The city is currently in escrow on that property, and would, in the event that Great Wolf chooses to exercise that option, sell it to them at fair market value.
As part of the stipulations in the contract, the City of Manteca is agreeing not to raise the existing hotel room tax by more than 12 percent over the course of the next decade – which, if fully realized, would bring the tax rate up to an even 10 percent from the 9 percent it is currently at.
In order to provide access to the facility, the city will extend Daniels Street west to McKinley Avenue – a process that is expected to take 18-months from the time that the city formally enters into contact with the developer.