Voters to decide soon on Three Rivers expansion

KENNEWICK -- As the days wind down to the upcoming election, Kennewick is already gearing up for next year. KEPR caught up with Mayor Steve Young, to get the latest on big expansion plans for the Three Rivers Convention Center.

It could mean a big boost for the entire Tri Cities community. Plans include expanded exhibit space, more parking, a completely over-hauled arena and new performing arts center.

"We believe this is so important, not just for the city of Kennewick, but for the entire region," says Young. "We were not willing to wait."

The expansion was originally proposed as a project for the Regional Public Facilities District (PFD), which consists of members from each of the Tri Cities. But when the group decided to pursue a water park instead, Kennewick moved forward with expansion plans through its own city PFD.

A privately-funded Springhill Suites hotel is also coming to the complex. Construction gets underway in February, and it will be attached directly to the Three Rivers facility.

"With the hotel, that will certainly open up opportunities that didn't exist before." says Planning and Economic Development Director Jeff Kossow. "Because it's now a Convention Center hotel."

All told, it's a $70-75 million project the Mayor hopes to see complete within the next 7 years. But Kennewick voters would first have to approve a 1/10% sales tax measure.

"What they're voting for, they've already paid," explains Young. "It's sales tax that currently sits in the general fund at the state level. This just says, 'our voters have approved these projects, give us our money back.'"

Despite the high price tag, the project could mean a lot more money in the city's coffers.
Three Rivers currently generates $40 million a year for the area. But by nearly doubling its square footage, the hope is to more than double revenue -- Not to mention bring in much-needed jobs.

"This expansion will create well over 500 good-paying jobs," Young says. "And when you add the performing arts center, a new coliseum, and the construction jobs that it would create over the next 10-15 years, it's huge."

And city leaders are looking at it, not just an improvement, but an investment.

Mayor Young tells Action News the Master plan and design should be finalized by mid-December. The hope is to have the issue on the November 2013 ballot.