TRIDEC, chamber of commerce tell Port of Kennewick it should close Vista Field

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldMarch 2, 2013 

Closing Vista Field Airport and redeveloping it appears to be the best option for the Tri-Cities, two more public agencies told the Port of Kennewick on Friday.

The Tri-City Development Council and the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce sent letters voicing their support for removing the small general aviation airport near the Three Rivers Convention Center in favor of mixed-use development.

They echoed similar views shared by the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau, Kennewick Public Facilities District and West Richland City Council. All said developing the 113 acres associated with Vista Field into something other than an airport was in the best interest of the community.

So far, no public agencies have told the port that it should keep the airport open and invest in improving it.

Port of Kennewick commissioners have asked the public for their views on Vista Field. In January, a draft study was released that explored closing the airport in favor of a mixed-use development or making Vista Field a premier airport.

The port has been struggling to find a way to revitalize the 90-acre airfield after deciding two years ago to keep it open in hopes of recruiting more businesses. A consulting firm was hired to do a $225,000 independent review after efforts to find an airport operator fell through.

The final report is expected this month.

TRIDEC told the port that it would be a challenge to convince investors that an enhanced airport as described by the recent study would succeed in the community with the size and demographics of the Tri-Cities.

But there are plenty of examples of downtowns being successfully reborn and city centers developed, wrote Carl Adrian, TRIDEC president and CEO, on behalf of the agency.

"TRIDEC encourages the Port of Kennewick to do something more with the Vista Field site than is currently being done," Adrian wrote.

Redeveloping the property should lead to more long-term jobs and taxable private investment than expanding the airport would, he wrote.

Still, it is important to give existing businesses and users time to find alternative places for their aircraft and to change their business operations, Adrian wrote. And the increase in traffic and congestion must be considered for the area.

The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce's board unanimously supported closing the airport and redeveloping it, according to the chamber's letter.

"The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce believes this would benefit both the taxpayers of the Port of Kennewick District and present greater opportunities for economic development," chamber officials wrote.

The chamber also joined the visitor and convention bureau in asking commissioners to make the decision instead of taking the issue to a public vote.

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