January 12, 2015, Tri-City Herald
Look at these words and close your right eye. Then look with your left eye closed. Things appear differently when you see them from only one perspective.
That’s why we need to look at a Mid-Columbia performing arts center with both eyes open.
It’s easy for leaders or agencies to look at a project from their vantage point exclusively.
The Port of Kennewick is re-purposing Vista Field, and the Kennewick Public Facilities District owns land near the project. Their master plans are not in complete conflict with each other. Yet they are not synchronized, either.
The biggest hurdle between the two plans at this point seems to be a road.
The port’s plan recommends building a road between the Toyota Center and the convention center that would connect the campuses and improve walkability.
The PFD’s plan is to construct a building in the same spot as the proposed road. The building would connect the convention center and the Toyota Center. As a bonus, planners say some the new exhibit hall could sometimes be used as a theater.
Both things cannot happen.
And although the conflicting plans create a blockade, we see it on the periphery.
Both sides need to focus on the big picture. A hodgepodged connector between two existing buildings may provide some valuable space, but it cannot take the place of a true regional performing arts center.
Both agencies represent Kennewick and the land under discussion is in Kennewick, but the benefits of the proposed project far exceeds one city’s boundaries.
While Windermere Theatre is an improvement over watching a show set up in a sports arena, the Toyota Center still is a hockey rink — or an indoor football arena, depending on the season.
And despite the convention center’s best efforts and alterations, it never was the perfect venue for the symphony.
The port’s design for the entertainment center at Vista Field calls for a performing arts center as an anchor. When it is successful, the whole area will benefit.
We are not opposed to expanding the convention center, but we do think it would be shortsighted to do so at the expense of the Vista Field project.
In 2013, voters decided against paying for a convention center expansion. We were disappointed. We see economic value in expanding the convention center to be able to attract more and bigger conventions to the Tri-Cities. The new plans at Vista Field — especially a performing arts center — will only enhance our community’s marketability.
It’s interesting to us that this bump in the road is about an actual road. Roads, by design, can be used to bring people together or divide them. We would like to see the former.