Biz Beat

The water park is coming, so are the jobs. Work under way at Manteca’s Great Wolf Lodge

Yes, the water slides are still coming. So is the hotel. Plus a family entertainment center. And restaurants. But before any of that arrives, expect between 500 and 600 jobs to come to Manteca.

A small-scale village in the form of the Great Wolf Lodge is rising in the Central Valley city just off Highway 120. A representative from a highly anticipated water park resort gave a public presentation at Manteca City Hall on Thursday evening to a packed crowd.

The 500-room, six-story structure is on track to open in June or July of 2020. Construction has been under way since groundbreaking last November. The structure looms large, visible from the freeway next to the Costco and Big League Dreams center.

Steven Jacobsen, vice president of domestic development at Great Wolf, updated the audience on the project’s progress and sought to reassure citizens that the resort would be a good and welcoming neighbor once it opens.

“We’re all about families. And we’re all about providing an opportunity for families to spend time together — quality time,” Jacobsen said. “We’re about creating an incredible experience so the average family can go with family and loved ones and have a great time.”

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Construction at the Great Wolf Lodge Resort in Manteca, Calif., Thursday, July 11, 2019. Andy Alfaro aalfaro@modbee.com

The new development will feature a connected hotel, indoor water park and family entertainment center. Jacobsen boasted of more than 50 activities “under one roof” at the resort. They include numerous water slides, wave pools, a lazy river, shopping, multiple dining options, bowling, arcades and even an interactive adventure game.

Great Wolf operates 17 resorts in North America, making it the largest indoor water park company on the continent. Besides its upcoming Manteca location, it has another set to open this fall near Phoenix, and one each planned for England and Mexico. The Midwest-founded and based company expects to see 8 million guests through its property next year.

But it was the Manteca project that was front and center Thursday night. The public presentation addressed some of the most pressing concerns about the project from area residents, including access to its lauded indoor water park. Shortly after the development was officially announced last August, some in the area complained the water park would only be open to hotel guests and leave locals high and dry.

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Family entertainment center under construction at the Great Wolf Lodge Resort in Manteca, Calif., Thursday, July 11, 2019. Andy Alfaro aalfaro@modbee.com

Jacobsen reiterated the company’s reasons for its hotel guest-only policy for its water park — safety and overall park enjoyment — but also introduced a new day-pass pilot program the resort has rolled out recently. At other properties, the company is testing passes to allow non-hotel guests to use the water park based on occupancy levels.

“We don’t want you to stand in a Disney line at Great Wolf,” Jacobsen said.

The company is still evaluating the day-pass program, and prices are flexible based on dates and occupancy. Jacobsen wouldn’t give a price range for the passes, but a look at the July day-pass rate at the three closest Great Wolf resorts in Southern California, Washington and Colorado put the fee mid-week at $65-$80 per person and weekend rate at $90-$110 per person.

When compared to booking a hotel room, which has two days of water park access for all of the registered guests included in the rate plus free parking, Jacobsen told the crowd that for a family of four-plus, it typically pencils out better to rent a room instead of doing the day passes.

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Workers move a section of the water slide during construction at the Great Wolf Lodge Resort in Manteca, Calif., Thursday, July 11, 2019. Andy Alfaro aalfaro@modbee.com

Jacobsen also couldn’t give a price range for the Manteca rooms, as they change depending on the day of the week, season and overall occupancy. But in Anaheim this month, rooms start at around $329.99 for a standard and $629 for a premium suite. The largest rooms in the resort will be able to sleep up to 12, and multiple different kinds of rooms and packages are available. Jacobsen also stressed that the Manteca site will not have minimum night stay requirements for hotel guests to use the park.

Still, for folks who don’t want to book a room, the lodge still has public areas that are accessible to non-hotel guests. Those include the restaurants and all of the family fun center, which will have an arcade, bowling alley, games and more.

And for those not looking to stay or play, the lodge could become their work as Jacobsen revealed the complex would hire between 500 to 600 full-time and part-time jobs. Positions will range from lifeguards to waitstaff, engineers to hotel clerks. Jacobsen said they are teaming with the City of Manteca to help publicize the positions.

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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

There will be a job fair in the city about 30 to 45 days before its opening next summer. So job seekers should be on the lookout for information around April and May of next year. Jacobsen said the job fair would ensure that Manteca residents “got first crack” at employment.

The managerial positions should be hired 30 to 45 days before the site’s opening, and then the bulk of the remaining staff should come on board about two and a half weeks out. No other job descriptions, salary information or employment requirements have been released yet.

Jacobsen and city staff also addressed some logistical concerns from area residents, including traffic on Daniels Street. City Manager Tim Ogden assured attendees that the road, which currently stops at the Great Wolf construction site, would be extended to McKinley Avenue on the west side of the project. That work should be completed by next February, months before the opening.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs multiple times a week. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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