Waterslides are coming back, but not all of Manteca feels welcomed by new resort

Rendering of the design for the new Great Wolf Lodge resort and waterpark coming to Manteca.
Rendering of the design for the new Great Wolf Lodge resort and waterpark coming to Manteca. Great Wolf Lodge

Waterslides are coming back to Manteca, but some residents worry they’ll be left out of the fun.

News that Great Wolf Lodge has finalized plans to bring a new indoor water-park resort to the city was greeted with much fanfare by local officials this week. But the 500-room resort, which will begin construction next month with a projected 2020 opening, comes with a catch. Only hotel guests will be allowed to use the waterslides and other water-park attractions.

“I guess it isn’t going to be for us,” said Manteca resident Dan Kaiser. “But it doesn’t seem right there’s a waterslide in the City of Manteca and the city can’t use it.”

The massive $200 million project is the result of close to a decade of of back-and-forth negotiations between the City of Manteca and Great Wolf Resorts, a Midwestern-based chain of indoor water-park resorts. The development will sit on a 29-acre lot on Daniels Street, next to Costco and adjacent to the Big League Dreams Sports Park off Highway 120.

Manteca has a long history with water parks. For 30 years the Manteca Waterslides were a regional draw, bringing generations of families out to splash and play before its closure in 2004.

City officials and Great Wolf representatives reached a hotel tax revenue sharing deal that will net Manteca $100 million over the next 25 years. That economic windfall, coupled with the 600 direct jobs it is projected to bring, make it an overwhelming positive for the region, said Manteca City Manager Tim Ogden.

And, he said, local residents can always rent a room to use the resort’s 95,000-square-foot indoor water park.

“Some residents will say this really isn’t going to benefit Manteca at all. But this is absolutely for Manteca,” Ogden said. “Come use it, come enjoy. It will be a boon to the community.”

Great Wolf Resort, Inc. representatives maintain that limiting water-park access to registered guests cuts down on lines and overcrowding. While the water attractions are reserved for hotel guests only, the resort’s other amenities are all open to the public.

That includes its restaurants and its 45,000-square-foot entertainment center, called the Great Wolf Adventure Park, which will have a multi-level ropes course, miniature golf course, video arcade and MagiQuest – the resort’s signature live-action adventure game.

Rates for a standard room at the Manteca Great Wolf Lodge will start at $199 (not including taxes and resort fees), and sleep up to six people depending on configuration. The lodge’s largest suites have a capacity of up to eight and parking is included with all rooms.

Each registered guest receives a water park pass that is good from time of check-in until closing the next day. Additional guests can purchase one-day water park passes for $50 each. Children under 2 years old have free access to the water park with a registered guest.

Manteca officials said they’ve already received some complaints about the guests-only policy for the water park. But stressed that local families can still enjoy the resort with some planning.

“Their package, when costed out, you get basically two days of water park use for a one night stay. If you cost that out compared to two days at other water parks, you’re already ahead,” Ogden said. “This is no different than if you stayed at a Hilton, you’d have to be a guest to use the pool.”

A family of four who reserves a standard room can expect to spend upwards of $50 per person to enjoy the water park for two days. By comparison, single-day general admission tickets are $26.99 for Raging Waters outdoor park in Sacramento and $49.99 for Six Flags Hurricane Harbor outdoor park in Concord.

Michael Rollins, a former longtime Manteca resident who moved to Turlock after retiring from the fire department, said he was initially excited to hear about the return of a water park to the region. But after calling to find out more from other, existing Great Wolf Lodge resorts, he realized it would get pricey depending on the room type and number of people in the party.

“They really don’t care about mom and pop in Manteca and their kids coming in for the day. They’re about the tourists,” he said. “So sorry, kids. If you want to go, get a job I guess.”

While access and pricing has raised some concern among residents, others are worried about what the new attraction will do to traffic in Manteca. Ogden said the city has taken the increased traffic into account and is working on an $8 million project to connect Daniels Street, which currently stops at the Great Wolf build site, west to McKinley Avenue.

The new McKinley Interchange exist off of Highway 120 is also expected to be completed around the time of the resort’s opening in 2020. Once completed, the resort could become a draw for other attractions to Manteca as well, Ogden said.

In 2013 the entire area was zoned in the city’s master plan for family entertainment, meaning other projects could be quickly approved for the property. The city has another 150 acres in the zoned area for other developments. Ogden said he expects Great Wolf to bring in visitors from as far as Reno, Fresno and the Bay Area.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the Great Wolf Lodge is expected to be held in mid-September. Ogden said despite some gripes, most of the feedback has been positive and people are excited to see what develops.

“The biggest disappointment so far is they have to wait two years until it opens,” he said.

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