Our Voice: Voters should take plunge and approve aquatic center

July 17, 2013 

In August, voters will be able to decide the fate of an aquatic center for the Tri-Cities.

This ballot has been 12 years in the making. It may well be a now-or-never proposition.

We have heard two main arguments against passing this measure. Oddly enough, both of them are complaining that this project is not enough -- no one is arguing that we don't need more swimming facilities.

Vic Epperly, a Kennewick citizen who wrote the con statement for the ballot, says this project is too limited. He would prefer to see the Regional Public Facilities District impose a tax twice as high and convert each city's pool to an indoor, year-round facility.

Other opposition that we've heard reject the proposed facility because it is too small. This segment of the community wants to have a 50-meter pool in the new facility.

Both of these ideas -- covering the cities' pools or putting in a 50-meter pool -- are interesting and have merit. Neither of them, however, is on the ballot.

If the measure passes, we will have a water park in the Tri-Cities during the summer and an indoor public pool (with some extra features) during the rest of the year starting as soon as 2015.

If it fails, we have exactly what we have now.

Inadequate facilities.

Voters who side with Epperly and reject this measure with the idea that the Regional PFD might convert existing pools are really just looking for a reason to say "no."

We cannot imagine that same voting bloc would come back later and approve a measure asking for twice as much money.

We also cannot imagine that another measure will come before the voters anytime soon.

One other option is private enterprise. One group still is working on a venture. Approving the public aquatic center doesn't prevent a business group from forging ahead. If both come through, there will be all the more places to swim in the Tri-Cities, ad that's not a bad thing.

What this proposal includes is a 13-acre indoor/outdoor regional year-round water park and swimming facility. It will cost $35 million to build and will be financed by an increase of .01 percent (one-tenth of 1 percent) to local sales tax. This works out to 1 penny on a $10 purchase.

Part of the facility will be outdoors and only open in the summer. It will have water slides, a lazy river and a wave pool. This will save money for the Tri-City families who now drive to Moses Lake, Hermiston or Pendelton for their "aqua-tainment" needs.

The second part of the complex will be indoors so it will be open all year. It will have a pool adequate for swimteams and high school athletes to train in and opportunities for open and lap swim times for the public. There also will be a diving tank and a therapy pool.

It will be centrally located near Road 100 in Pasco.

This is not the Taj Mahal of aquatic centers. It is a somewhat scaled-back approach from what the community has talked about in the past. This may disappoint some voters, but makes it palatable to others.

It's something we need and that we can afford.

It's time to take the plunge.

The Tri-City Herald recommends approving the Tri-City regional aquatic center.

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