Vote next month to expand Three Rivers Convention Center means small tax hike

KENNEWICK, Wash. -- In less than a month now, you'll be casting votes, many of you looking for a change. Officials at the Three Rivers Convention Center are hoping you're willing to shell out a little, for a lot in return.

They have big plans for expansion. They say they're turning down 20-million dollars a year because the center just isn't big enough. But your vote can change that.

Rishelle Lockewood has been to the center many times. She is attending a wine event next week. She's been for annual work Christmas parties. She used to attend Parade of Homes every year. She's in favor of an expansion that would bring plenty of new jobs and businesses.

"I just think it's really advantageous for the community and hopefully everybody will vote to get this through," said Lockewood.

Another vote, another tax increase. That's what's holding the center back from doubling in size. A tenth of a percent sales tax hike, which based on an average household's spending equates to about 20 dollars a year. The plan is to build an addition of 50,000 square feet for exhibit halls, 15,000 for additional meeting room and lobby space, as well as 500 more parking spaces.

If three rivers does not expand, the mayor says the center will continue to lose 20-million a year. And that's just from interested parties that are too big for the locale.

"This is an example of why we have to quit relying on federal government to be our prime source of revenue and begin to rely on new businesses coming to this community and the creation of new jobs," said Kennewick Mayor, Steve Young.

If the vote passes in November, the Director says they will spend the next few months finalizing the design, and then hope to begin construction in the spring of next year.

But they say the biggest problem they have going against them is, a lot of the people voting, haven't been inside the facility. So they're hoping an open house this weekend, will help answer questions.

"We're hoping to bring people in so they can see, touch and feel how this building really impacts the area," said Executive Director, Corey Pearson.

"Definitely for it, the opportunity for the community and the economy, the benefits for twenty dollars per household, I think it's fantastic," said Lockewood.

If the vote passes, over 500 new jobs will open up. Many of those will be long term, even after the construction is completed.