Great Wolf, Great Mystery

Look carefully at this map of the proposed Great Wolf Lodge site

As of Wednesday, a deal between the Gilroy and Great Wolf Lodge had slipped away.
Or did it?
On Monday councilman Fred Tovar posted that the resort was choosing Manteca over Gilroy, but Tuesday he removed the post.
In private conversations this week, council members who had been negotiating with the resort in private sessions, said they thought the waterpark and hotel chain preferred a more shovel-ready site and Manteca had been working for a decade to prepare one. Gilroy would have to go through months of work and environmental review.
At Monday’s city council meeting Mayor Roland Velasco seemed to indicate the current deal was off the table but they could be talking in the future.
“As the community knows the exclusivity period between Gilroy and Great Wolf Lodge has expired and they have indicated that they will be exploring other possible locations that fit what they want,” he said. “They are making a business decision to find a place where they can break ground immediately.
“We remain hopeful that Gilroy will be selected as a site down the road. We need to remain hopeful because the tax revenue would provide a lot of funds to the city to hire more police, fire, and do road repairs. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the future that this city, but this city council probably won’t see it. It’s a long term project.”
But Tuesday, the city council announced it would meet with an attorney from Great Wolf Lodge in a closed-door session at city hall on Wednesday night.
And the city manager of Manteca said his city hadn’t been told that the company would build there.
“We had an initial conversation with them this week and are waiting to hear more,” said Manteca manager Tim Ogden. “They shared they would be making a decision on a Northern California location but didn’t say any more. “We’re optimistic. We’d love to have them. We’ve been working on it for a decade.”
Manteca’s plan is to have the Lodge as a part of a “Downtown Disney experience without Disney,” he said. It would feature an amateur sports complex and shopping center. The city has cleared its site, done environmental review and has the support of its residents, he said.
The Madison Wisconsin based water park resort ended its exclusivity period with Gilroy ended on Sept. 30 but still has options here and in Brentwood.
“It would take a long time to build in Gilroy because of the length of time it takes to conduct an environmental impact report and the entitlement processes,” said Velasco during a phone conversation. “They want to continue to look at Gilroy as a possible new Northern California location in the future.”
The company told councilmembers it could foresee 900 rooms in the Bay Area, with 400 in Manteca, sources said, so the door is not completely shut to future considerations
“We don’t know when they will come back to Gilroy or what location they will pursue,” Velasco said. “I’m optimistic that they will come back and we can make it a win for them and the city.”
Great Wolf Lodge indicated that development was still possible for Gilroy.
“As we look to expand the Great Wolf Lodge experience to new audiences, the potential of adding a resort in Northern California is of great interest to us,” Great Wolf Director of Communications Jason Lesecki said. “While the 60-day exclusive negotiation period with the City of Gilroy has expired, we are still evaluating Gilroy as a potential location for a future Great Wolf Lodge. We look forward to continued discussions with Gilroy city leaders and community members as we move forward with the evaluation process. While we are very interested in developing a resort in Gilroy and feel it would be a good fit for our brand of family entertainment, we will restart conversations in the near future with Northern California communities in our consideration set and look to finalize a decision soon.”
During the public commentary session last Tuesday at city hall, local business leaders expressed their support for bringing the resort to Gilroy, while residents in the neighboring 950 homes in Eagle Ridge opposed it.
“The chamber met to discuss this opportunity and we urge that Gilroy continue negotiations with Great Wolf Lodge ” Gilroy Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Turner said. “This is a great opportunity and we should give it serious consideration. With 1,500 construction jobs, 500 hotel jobs and 300 vendors, many of whom are local, along with 500,000 visitors year long all of this will contribute to the economic well being of our community. Twice Gilroy voters turned down the opportunity for an RDA. Look at Morgan Hill to see the opportunities they have had to revitalize their downtown because of the RDA. We can’t ignore this opportunity here.”
Gilroy Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Tammy Brownlow said, “From an economic development standpoint, projects like this don’t come around very often. This is a company that wants to commit $200 million to our community and along with the jobs it brings, those benefits can be very beneficial. The city does not have a spending problem, but a revenue problem. This project could bring in a lot of revenue for roads, police and fire.”
Conversely, many Gilroyans voiced their apprehension over the project’s location in the Hecker Pass Corridor next to Gilroy Gardens. Many were concerned that Great Wolf Lodge would disturb the natural beauty of the area and that opening the area for development of that size would open a Pandora’s Box of future industrial and commercial development in an area that is not fit for such development. Concerns over increased traffic along with skepticism regarding the economic benefits the resort would bring, brought many to the study session to speak out.
“I wanted them in Gilroy, just not near our homes in Hecker Pass,” said Eagle Ridge resident Betty Vaca.
Said Peggy Vix, “This has the potential to be a very big problem for Gilroy. SInce I heard about this two weeks ago, I have literally lost so much sleep.” She said the hotel doesn’t fit in with “the serene natural beauty” of Gilroy Gardens and Hecker Pass.