Fast Focus: What advice do you have for the Regional PFD? Don't overbuild performing arts center

March 30, 2014 

I am a former drama teacher and administrator in charge of facilities for the Richland School District and current president of Community Concerts of the Tri-Cities. I fully support the need for a performing arts center in our community. I also endorse the idea of a public/private partnership. I don't speak for our board, but I know CCTC struggles every year to house our five or six yearly performances in the existing local venues.

However, I don't believe we need a 2,500 seat facility. CCTC is a 1,200 member organization. We currently use Faith Assembly or RHS auditoriums and never fill either for our concerts. I have attended many performances by local groups and none have ever required 2,500 seats. Local groups offer multiple performances when appropriate.

For touring company performances it is true that we draw more than 1,200 and might draw 2,500 or more, but those crowds could be accommodated with multiple performances. Only rock concerts and similar events which can still be accommodated at our current Toyota Center need more than 2,500 seats.

What we need is a performance venue sized for our community's performing arts audience with a professional stage, lighting and sound system. The house needs comfortable accessible seating and great acoustics.

Most important, the facility must also be affordable for local groups to rent and use.

The key to success for the effort to gain a performing arts center is convincing the public that the facility fits our community needs; that we are not building a Taj Mahal. The aquatic center failed because it didn't meet the needs our community as seen by the voting public, and compromised on the needs of its biggest supporters.

CCTC probably would not rent a 2,500 seat facility five times each year. We couldn't afford it and our membership would not pay the increased cost it would require of them. We must not build a facility so costly that local groups can't afford to use it.

If our voters are convinced that the facility will meet the needs of our community I believe we will support it.

-- ROBERT EMMINGHAM, Kennewick

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