Waterpark in Manteca takes shape; construction begins with a flurry for 2020 opening

The return of waterslides in Manteca is ramping up.

Ground was broken Thursday at the site of the new, massive Great Wolf Lodge just off Highway 120. In the coming months, expect a flurry of activity on the 29-acre lot next to Costco with exterior walls going up soon after the new year. The resort is slated to open in mid-2020.

A groundbreaking ceremony with Great Wolf Resort executives, City of Manteca officials and construction crews laid out the vision for the new combination hotel, entertainment center and waterpark resort. Large renderings of the buildings stood on easels as work on foundations pilings continued in the background and fireworks went off to commemorate the event.

“This is a milestone day for the Great Wolf Lodge and the city of Manteca,” said Great Wolf Resorts Vice President of Domestic Development Steven Jacobsen. “This launch here really is the next generation of what we’ve developed. It is going to be one of the most incredible lodges that we’ve ever built.”

The Manteca location will be the company’s 19th resort in North America and second in California; its first state site is near Anaheim. The lodge will have three main components: a six-story, 500-room hotel; a family entertainment center; and a 95,000-square-foot indoor waterpark with waterslides.

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A rendering of the Great Wolf Lodge in Manteca which will include a 6-story, 500-room hotel, family entertainment center and 95,000 square-foot indoor waterpark. Gensler Great Wolf Resort

Waterparks are no stranger to Manteca. For three decades the Manteca Waterslides were a regional draw, bringing more than 200,000 each year to splash and play before its closure in 2004. Members of the Brown family, who founded and owned the waterslides since 1974, were at the ceremony.

Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum said the event is the culmination of 10 years of on-and-off negotiations to bring a waterpark back to the city. He pointed to the constant stream of cars and trucks whizzing by on the nearby freeway as a sign of its potential.

“Great Wolf will set the parameters for larger things to come,” DeBrum said. “We’ll take this 100-year-old community, 100 years old this year, from a sleepy little train stop to a bustling destination point that will serve people from Northern California and afar.”

The Great Wolf property sits on land designated as a “family entertainment zone,” which still has another 150 acres that could be turned around for quick development of other projects.

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The groundbreaking ceremony for the Great Wolf Lodge in Manteca, Calif. was held Nov. 8, 2018. Fireworks go off as Great Wolf Resort and City of Manteca officials take the first ceremonial shovel of dirt to start construction. Marijke Rowland

Construction on the Great Wolf Lodge has already begun. The site has been cleared and underground work to support the foundation is underway.

Dan Wheeler, vice president and general manager for the construction company Turner, which is overseeing the project, said work has also begun off-site on the building’s exterior walls. The structure is being pre-cast out of concrete and will arrive in large slabs which can be quickly erected once completed. He expects that work to commence around the start of the new year.

Plans for the resort were finalized and announced this past August. But they were not met without some controversy. Only hotel guests will have access to the indoor waterpark, causing some local residents to complain they were being barred from the fun.

Jacobsen said the public will have full access to the resort’s restaurants and 45,000-square-foot family entertainment center, called the Great Wolf Adventure Park. The center includes a video arcade, ropes course, miniature golf course and live-action interactive games.

He also noted that all registered hotel guests will have two full days of access to the indoor waterpark included in an overnight stay. 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.

So when compared, the cost comes near that of what people with large families or groups would pay total to go to a standalone waterpark for two days, he said. He said safety and user experience are the reason the resort restricts the water attractions only to hotel guests.

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The groundbreaking ceremony for the Great Wolf Lodge in Manteca, Calif. was held Nov. 8, 2018. Steven Jacobsen, Great Wolf Resorts Vice President of Domestic Development, speaking in front of renderings of the new water park resort. Marijke Rowland

“Yeah, we could pack tons of people into (the waterpark), but that’s not the purpose of the experience,” he said. “We want you and your family to have the best possible experience you can. And that means guests only. So if little Susie and Johnny want to go down the super slide 13 times, they can do it.”

He also said the resort also regularly runs specials and local families should sign up for the Great Wolf Lodge newletters and social media accounts to be alerted of upcoming deals.

“Yes, you have to be a guest but it is affordable,” he said. “There is definitely the ability for locals to come.”

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