In Focus: Aquatic center will measure our cooperation

July 5, 2013 

On May 8, the nine-member Board of Directors of the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District voted unanimously to place a ballot proposition for funding of a regional aquatics facility and water park before the voters of the cities of Kennewick, Pasco and Richland in the Aug. 6 election.

The proposition will ask voters if they approve of a sales tax of one-tenth of one percent — 1 penny on a $10 purchase — to make the indoor/outdoor competition, recreation and learning facility a reality.

If approved by a majority of those voting, the $35 million facility would include a variety of year-round and seasonal water features, supporting activities such as competitive swimming and diving; physical training; water safety education; and recreational classes, as well as individual and family recreation with features such as slides, a surf simulator, wave pool and more.

The aquatics facility and water park would not only be designed to accommodate our community’s growing population, but also be expected to provide an attraction to visitors to the Tri-Cities for competition and recreation.

But the opportunity for voters to decide on this project is about more than a single facility. It is about interlocal cooperation and a mechanism that promises to allow the Tri-Cities to consider other large- scale projects that will meet the needs of a growing and thriving region.

Seven years ago, the three cities began a process to identify regional projects and evaluate ways to address the challenges of planning, funding and operating large scale projects — those needed in the larger community but beyond the financial capacity of any one city.

The three city councils formed the Regional Oversight Committee, consisting of elected and appointed officials from each of the three cities to consider some 18 different projects, as well as several funding and organizational structures, to enable the Tri-Cities to realize the kinds of public facilities that are enjoyed in comparably sized communities that are typically governed by a single, large city.

In 2010, the Oversight Committee was successful in seeing the state Legislature finally approve its proposed changes to state law, allowing for the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District (TCRPFD) to be created jointly by the three cities. Since its organization in October 2010, the TCRPFD has carefully reviewed possible projects, narrowing the list from 18 to the four most viable projects.

In 2011, the district conducted public meetings and commissioned a community opinion survey to assess the feelings and support of voters for each of the four projects — a performing arts center, the Reach Interpretative Center, expansion of the Three-Rivers Convention Center and the aquatics facility/water park.

When the survey identified the aquatics facility as the top choice with 72 percent of those responding to the statistically valid questionnaire stating they were supportive, the concept of a regional aquatics facility began to come more into focus. A 13-acre site on the north side of Interstate 182, just east of the Road 100 interchange in Pasco, has been secured in the event voters approve of the tax to fund construction and operation of the facility.

It offers an excellent regional location, convenient from all areas of the Tri-Cities, and highly visible to freeway travelers. If voters approve, the TCRPFD plans to open the complex in the summer of 2015.

As mayors of the three cities and as members of the TCRPFD Board, we are proud of the efforts of the citizens, the board, staff and Tri-City volunteers who have worked together to identify, refine and put forward this proposal.

We are energized by the process that has allowed for community involvement in the review of several worthy projects and the identification of a plan and site for the aquatics facility and water park; all with an eye toward putting forth the best possible project for the whole community. We jointly encourage voters to become educated on this proposal. For more information, please visit www.tcpfd.org — and be sure to vote on Aug. 6.

Matt Watkins in the Pasco Mayor. John Fox is the Richland Mayor and Steve Young is mayor of Kennewick.

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