March 22, 2015, Tri-City Herald
The players involved in developing a hub of tourism and entertainment near Vista Field are saying the right things — that they want to work together and create something amazing for the community.
Their first chance to prove they mean what they say will be April 7 when the Kennewick City Council, Port of Kennewick and Kennewick Public Facilities District get together to discuss how their projects can be combined and connected.
Pieces of their separate plans have been in conflict with each other, and the upcoming meeting is an important chance for agency leaders to work through their differences and establish one cohesive proposal that benefits the entire region.
One group’s plan should not trump another’s. Everyone who comes to the table should arrive with a willingness to compromise, because it’s likely all sides will have to give a little bit.
Vista Field, the former airport closed by the Port of Kennewick, is in the center of the Tri-Cities’ largest commercial area. It presents an unprecedented opportunity for economic development and port officials rightly want to make the most of it. They established a Vista Vision Task Force that gathered public input and are working with an architect to develop the 113-acre site.
The public facilities district, which owns the Three Rivers Convention Center and manages the Toyota Center for the city, has expansion plans of its own and wants to connect the two venues.
Therein lies a conflict. The port’s plan calls for an alleyway for vehicles and pedestrians between the convention center and the coliseum, which would help connect these important anchors to other proposed attractions at Vista Field.
However, that same alleyway is where public facilities district officials wanted to construct a building. Their idea is to expand the convention center with a multipurpose exhibit hall that also could serve as a performing arts venue, as well as add more concession space.
It appears, however, the city and the public facilities district board are willing to compromise.
Kennewick Mayor Steve Young said master plans are flexible and concepts for the Three Rivers Campus can be changed. Barbara Johnson, public facilities district board president, also has said the district supports development efforts at Vista Field and has indicated the group wants what is best for the community.
That’s the right attitude and we are glad to see community leaders willing to work in the spirit of collaboration. Port officials also have encouraged joint discussions, so they also should be ready to compromise.
This is a critical time and a lot is on the line. These decisions may be in the hands of leaders in Kennewick, but their choices will have a far-reaching affect on the entire Tri-Cities. Everyone involved should be prepared to focus on what is at stake for the entire property, and not just their particular piece of it.