Officials break ground for Carousel of Dreams

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldNovember 16, 2012 

Karen Baker looks forward to riding on the Carousel of Dreams again -- more than 60 years after her first ride -- when it opens next summer at the Southridge Sports and Events Complex in Kennewick.

The Benton City resident, who remembers trips on the bobbing horses as a child, was one of an estimated 100 people who gathered Thursday at a ceremonial ground-breaking for the 45-horse carousel.

The Three Rivers Carousel Foundation plans to soon begin moving the gazebo where people gathered to celebrate the ground-breaking. It will be replaced by a new building to house the 102-year-old Carousel of Dreams presented by Gesa Credit Union.

Foundation chairman Eric Van Winkle said the carousel will be operating in 2013 thanks to the support of the community and city officials. Gesa recently paid $1 million for the naming rights to the carousel.

General contractor CRF Construction of Richland will donate its work, Van Winkle said. ALD Architects of Richland will provide services for free to design the carousel's home.

Van Winkle said that type of community support is what will help this project get built. The foundation also is looking for subcontractors willing to donate at least a portion of their services.

The project is estimated to cost about $1.9 million, but the foundation hopes to receive about one-third of that in in-kind services.

The foundation also wants a sponsor for the lead horse. Four horses already have sponsors, but the remaining horses will be available for sponsorship starting in December, Van Winkle said.

The design for the building includes banquet facilities, and the carousel will accommodate parties of up to 200 people -- more if the neighboring events center also is rented, Van Winkle said. Party rentals will be an important part of the carousel's annual budget, he said.

Earlier this year, the Kennewick City Council gave the foundation another chance to finish the carousel. It considered selling off the 1910 Charles Carmel carousel to recoup some of the $830,000 the city invested in the project. The horses, purchased in 2003, were restored and have been sitting in city storage.

The carousel made its debut in 1910 at the Silver Beach Amusement Park of St. Joseph, Mich., Kennewick Mayor Steve Young said. It operated there for about 60 years before it being sold and then was stored in Roswell, N.M.

Baker recalled riding the carousel in St. Joseph during the early 1950s. She was about 10 years old and lived about 20 miles away in Berrien Springs, Mich.

"It was the place to go and have fun as a child," she said.

Baker said her favorites were the horses that went up and down, the feature that simulates galloping.

"Carousels have this magical quality," Young said.

Young said he also remembers riding on them during his youth, and having one at Southridge will give young and old a place to create memories.

Christina Lethlean, Gesa's president and CEO, said the credit union is pleased to see the project continue.

"This, in my view, is a legacy," she said.

It's something local families can enjoy, and a place they can bring visitors to, Lethlean said.

People from beyond the Mid-Columbia will travel to the Tri-Cities to see the carousel, Young said.

For more information or to donate, go to

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512;

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