Kennewick entertainment district to expand

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 14, 2014 

The Kennewick Public Facility District's 20-year wish list includes a performing arts center, parking garages and a second hotel attached to the Three Rivers Convention Center.

Corey Pearson, executive director of the Three Rivers Campus, told the Kennewick City Council on Tuesday that the proposed master plan re-configures the Three Rivers Entertainment District toward the former Vista Field Airport.

Pearson said the entertainment district will be able to embrace whatever Port of Kennewick officials dream up for the 113 acres. The current vision for the former airport includes a mix of commercial, office, retail, public park and residential space.

Overall, the public facilities district plans to consolidate buildings to make the entertainment district more pedestrian friendly, he said. Parking, including parking garages, will be available on the perimeter of the district.

Construction is under way for the five-story, $7 million hotel that will connect to the Three Rivers Convention Center, Pearson said. SpringHill Suites by Marriott will have 122 rooms.

That's something that officials and local tourism experts have said is needed to retain and attract business to the convention center.

Pearson said the public facilities district already has needed to regroup on the first phase of the proposed plan since Kennewick voters declined a sales tax measure to expand the Three Rivers Convention Center.

The facilities district board indicated in November that the proposal would be brought before voters again. The $20 million convention center expansion and improvement project includes adding about 50,000 square feet of exhibit space, along with some additional space and parking.

The second phase of the proposed master plan includes a new center and second ice rink, Pearson said. That will become more of a priority as the Toyota Center continues to age.

They also hope to make the area more pedestrian friendly and add more parking, he said.

During the third phase, the public facilities district could take down the Toyota Arena, which is currently the public ice rink. However, Pearson said he thinks the community may be able to support three sheets of ice. Also, elements in this phase will try to create a front door to the entertainment district.

A fourth phase may include another expansion of the convention center, a performing arts center and parking garages, Pearson said.

The proposed master plan includes reworking streets throughout the entertainment district.

Kennewick Mayor Steve Young said the entertainment district has the potential of pulling in 25,000 people to the campus at various events once the fourth phase of expansion is complete.

That's a huge economic driver for the region, he said.

Barbara Johnson, public facilities district board president, said the city and public facilities district needs to tie up the land in the entertainment district so that plans for the entertainment district are not negatively affected.

Once the public facilities district has the council's blessing, then officials will contact other landowners in the entertainment district, such as the Kennewick Irrigation District, to get their buy-in on the plan, said Johnson, who also is the Columbia Center mall general manager.

The council will be asked to approve the proposed master plan at a future council meeting, Young said.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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