TRAC's stellar year proves saving it the right decision

TRAC Manager Troy Woody recently asked for a $150,000 budget adjustment from Franklin County, which owns the facility and helps subsidize the center's annual losses.

Usually with that kind of news, we'd acknowledge that public facilities rarely make money but issue a stern message to try to minimize the losses.

But this is something different. As the old adage goes, you have to spend money to make money.

Such is the case with the Trade, Recreation and Agricultural Center in Pasco.

Business is good, really good. And an increase in business volume brings more expenses.

Woody told commissioners the budget adjustment would be needed because of increased earnings at TRAC, which brought unexpected expenses from the time the 2012 budget had been approved.

Expected revenues for 2012 are about $2.3 million for the center, which is the largest annual income since TRAC opened in 1995.

While that's great news, the center still operates in the red. But it is a marked improvement. TRAC usually loses about $400,000 annually, but the uptick in business will cut losses by $50,000 to $75,000.

Commissioner Brad Peck, always fast with a sharp pencil, said the revenue amounts to about a 12.5 percent increase in one year, something that many a business owner would be thrilled to see.

Franklin County doesn't bear the burden of TRAC's financial deficit on its own, and we're sure Pasco city officials are happy to see the subsidy they share will be a bit less this year.

The city had eyed the facility for other uses, putting the future of TRAC on a roller-coaster this year when the city tagged it as the first choice for an aquatic center proposed by the regional facilities district.

Voters eventually will decide the fate of the aquatic center, but city officials had pushed for it to be at TRAC and had expected to be out of the facility's partnership with the county in 2014.

County commissioners told Pasco to buy out its share if that was the case, but then heard from constituents who wanted TRAC to remain for its intended voter-approved uses of trade, recreation and agriculture. And the commissioners changed their tune.

Soon it also was discovered that the agreement between the county and city regarding TRAC would have the city paying toward the operating costs until 2024. So the aquatics center was forced to find a new home, should it ever be built, one more exit down the freeway at Road 100.

We'd like to give Woody a pat on the back for staying the course and increasing business at TRAC even while it was uncertain what was in store for the facility.

We've heard time and time again that facility space is at a premium in the Tri-Cities as convention and trade show business increases here. The convention center in Kennewick says it needs to expand to keep events here.

And Woody sees a bright future for TRAC, one where the facility hits a "sweet spot" where revenues continue to increase and losses don't.