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Nov. 09--MANTECA -- When the Manteca Waterslides closed more than 10 years ago, folks in the area began discussing the possibility of bringing a similar recreation landmark back to the city.

On Thursday, the possibility became more tangible.

As fireworks blasted overhead, developers and dignitaries broke ground on what will be the largest family resort and indoor water park in San Joaquin County -- Great Wolf Lodge, scheduled to open in 2020.

Earth movers have begun work at the site just north of Highway 120 between Interstate 5 and Highway 99 adjacent to Costco in the Stadium Center shopping complex and Big League Dreams Sports Park.

The Manteca project will be the 19th in the Great Wolf Resorts' portfolio and second in California, the other being in Anaheim.

"But this lodge here really is the next generation of what we've developed," said Steve Jacobsen, vice president, domestic development for Great Wolf Resorts, based in Chicago. "It's going to be one of the most incredible lodges we've ever built."

Great Wolf Manteca will include a six-story hotel tower with 500 guest rooms and suites. Resort guests will have exclusive access to a 95,000-square-foot indoor water park with slides, pools and cabanas, as well as numerous kids' activities, such as arts and crafts, and story time with character appearances. The target market is families with children ages 2 through 12, though some of the water park rides cater to teens and adults.

The general public will not have access to the water park but can partake in the Family Entertainment Center behind the hotel that will include restaurants and a "dry play" area with rock climbing, miniature golf, a video arcade and a bowling center. The project's total footprint will be about a half-million square feet.

Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum said some city residents expressed opposition to the project because the water park will not be open to the public. DeBrum said Great Wolf Resorts is a private company and just as Disneyland, for example, doesn't allow access to its parks without purchasing a ticket, Great Wolf Resorts does not allow access to its water parks for non-guests of the hotel.

Jacobsen said Great Wolf Lodge markets to locals, as well as visitors from outside the area, with family-affordable hotel rates.

DeBrum said the project will generate property, transient occupancy and sales tax revenue for the city and county.

In attendance at the groundbreaking were Janet and Jeff Brown, whose family built the Manteca Waterslides at Oakwood Lake, a recreation landmark open from 1974 to 2004. Jeff Brown said he's excited Manteca will have a water park again. Over the years, he's met many people who have shared their fond memories of the waterslides. Brown said Great Wolf Lodge will create lasting memories for a new generation of families.

"There's this human component that I think will continue here in Manteca that will keep those stories going," said Brown, who lives in Tracy. "And that's the exciting thing for me."

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