Tri-City Herald: Chance to rethink TRAC’s purpose and possibilities

Change often brings opportunity.

The recent resignation of TRAC’s longtime manager is one of those opportunities. As Troy Woody transitions to operating his own business full-time in the private sector, Franklin County will need to fill that leadership role.

But they need not rush a decision. Instead, we hope they take some time to both reflect and to look forward. Some lessons should have been learned, and an education of the role of public facilities seems to be a necessary course of action.

TRAC and, by extension, Woody became lightning rods for criticism, largely through no fault other than it is a public facility that — by its very design — is not a money maker.

But leaders in Franklin County and members of the community often seem to forget that. Public facilities are designed to provide venues for area events and drive the local economy, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t operate in the red. They are a losing proposition from a business perspective and a service that local governments provide to their communities. Without public facilities, communities would be weaker.

An uncertain future became a hurdle as TRAC was considered to become an aquatics park, instead. Then a state audit found minor issues with cash-handling procedures regarding ATMs, bringing more disapproval. TRAC now is expected to have had a record loss of $516,000 in 2014.

While we’d like to see the gap narrow in the loss margin, it’s easy to see why some groups opted to book their events elsewhere.

But the time for change is now. The leadership in Franklin County and its partner in the facility — the city of Pasco — need to set clear and realistic expectations for the facility before they hire a new manager.

Pasco and Franklin County need TRAC, whether they know it or not. And so does the rest of the community.

While it’s easy to be parochial, our leaders and our citizens need to become more adept at viewing the big picture. While each town may have its own identity and government, only the river physically divides us. Mental barriers prohibit a broader vision.

It’s time to look at the region as a whole and public facilities play a big part in that picture. We don’t need redundant facilities, but we do need partnerships and cooperation.

The Three Rivers Convention Center has struggled to convince the community that it needs to expand. In the meantime, maybe instead of losing business, the center could look for ways to work with other facilities. TRAC and other public venues are just a few minutes away, and bus service could move convention-goers from facility to facility.

Maybe the managers of all the public facilities should form a group that meets regularly to share opportunities and challenges. These are smart folks who understand both the needs and the limitations involved.

We hope our leaders see the opportunity and seize it.