Picture it. A 500-room, upscale, family-friendly, all-inclusive, revenue-generating, notoriety-generating water park/hotel on vacant city-owned land next to a city-owned theme park, Gilroy Gardens, which was eager for quick access to new customers.
Such was the promise of Great Wolf, a company that refocused its initial interest in Gilroy onto another city.
On Aug. 10 Great Wolf announced that the Wisconsin-based company would break ground on a new 500-room indoor water park/hotel conference center in Manteca. Great Wolf will be the first water park in Manteca since Manteca Waterslides closed in 2004.
The project represents a $180 million investment, and includes a 95,000-square-foot water park, a 45,000-square-foot Great Wolf Adventure Park and a 12,000-square-foot conference space with breakout rooms, audio/visual capabilities and catering.
“As we look to expand the Great Wolf Lodge experience to new markets, we are excited to place our newest resort in Manteca and provide Northern Californian families with an easy getaway where kids and parents can have fun together,” said Murray Hennessy, chief executive officer for Great Wolf Resorts, Inc. “The strong support from the local community and government, along with the overall family-friendly nature of Manteca, made this a perfect location for a Great Wolf Lodge.”
In August 2017, the city of Gilroy entered into an exclusive 60-day negotiation period with Great Wolf Lodge, pursuing what would have been a resort/hotel with up to 700 rooms on city-owned land next to Gilroy Gardens. Then the project faced fierce opposition from nearby residents, who packed Gilroy City Council meetings to voice their opposition.
In October the negotiations dried up because Great Wolf said it preferred a site that was more “shovel ready.”
“They are making a business decision to find a place where they can break ground immediately,” Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco said in October.
Whether the decision to favor Manteca over Gilroy came down to availability or the stony reception Great Wolf received from many Gilroyans is unclear. Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum had good things to say about the project.
“We are thrilled to welcome Great Wolf Lodge to the City of Manteca and look forward to our partnership with this iconic brand,” DeBrum said in a press release. “The city has been working toward this type of project for a number of years, and with Great Wolf’s reputation for family-friendly attractions and experiences throughout their resorts, it’s a great fit for Manteca.”
The 29-acre Manteca site will be the company’s 19th resort nationally and its second in California, joining their location in Garden Grove near Anaheim. The company expects to break ground by the end of the year and to open in the first half of 2020.
Great Wolf resorts are designed to be all-inclusive, providing families with food, fun, entertainment and security within the resort/hotel. The Manteca location features Barnwood, a full-service, farm-to-fork restaurant, along with a Dunkin’ Donuts and a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream parlor.
Great Wolf tapped Gensler, a San Francisco-based design and architecture company, to design the property and New York-based Turner Construction to manage overall construction. Neuman Pools will design and build the large water park attractions and will oversee the construction of both the indoor and outdoor pool areas.