Kennewick voters will soon hear a new pitch to expand the Three Rivers Convention Center. The $35 million proposal now includes building a third ice rink to serve the area’s growing youth hockey community.
Last August, Kennewick voters rejected “The Link,” a 110,000-square-foot package of upgrades that included more space and a Broadway-style theater.
The request failed with 52.5 percent of voters in opposition in the Aug. 2 primary. A simple majority is needed for approval.
“We were so close last time. It makes sense to try again,” said Corey Pearson, executive director of the Three Rivers complex and the Kennewick Public Facilities District.
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We were so close last time. It makes sense to try again.
Corey Pearson, Three Rivers Convention Center
Pearson briefed the Kennewick City Council during a workshop Tuesday on plans to bring the enhanced version of The Link back to voters.
The City Council must authorize the request before it can appear on the ballot. It made no decisions Tuesday, but indicated it supports the original expansion plan as well as the addition of a third ice rink. The facilities district board will refine its plan when it meets May 18.
The board is evaluating potential election dates, but does intend to ask voters to approve a two-tenths of a percent sales tax increase that would add two cents to a $10 purchase in Kennewick, the maximum allowed.
Pearson said the facilities district can accomplish all the projects included from the 2016 plan, while adding in a $5 million ice rink, if it is careful about phasing and retools bond reserve requirements.
The Tri-Cities Amateur Hockey Association is the driving force behind the addition of an ice rink. It would the third at the Three Rivers complex, where both the Toyota Center and the Toyota Arena can be configured for skating.
TCAHA is based at Pasco’s TRAC and uses the Toyota Center as an overflow, racking up more than 400 hours of ice time there last year. Franklin County, which owns TRAC, is considering closing the aging and unprofitable ice rink when its TCAHA contract expires at the end of 2018. Without a replacement, TCAHA faces a ruinous shortage of ice time.
Kris Waltze, president of the youth hockey group, said it needs more ice, not less.
“We need it even if TRAC doesn’t go away,” he said.
Waltze, along with board member Russel Del Gesso, said a third sheet of ice at Three Rivers would put Kennewick on the national map for hockey-related tournaments and events. A recent regional event drew 30 teams and generated demand for 800 hotel rooms per night for four nights.
“We could make it the mecca for hockey in Washington,” Waltze said.
We could make it the mecca for hockey in Washington.
Kris Waltze, Tri-Cities Amateur Hockey Association
The hockey association enthusiastically endorses adding a new rink at Three Rivers and sent a letter to members this week updating them on the ice rink situation.
“Not only will this additional sheet of ice provide necessary hours for our youth program, it could also help to provide additional resources and support for parallel activities,” Waltze wrote, noting that curling, figure skating, girls hockey and adult hockey could all benefit.
The new building could be converted to support indoor soccer matches in the summer, when the hockey program is less active and only requires a single rink.
“It’s not just a hockey thing. It would be multi-use,” Waltze said.
Barbara Johnson, president of the Kennewick Public Facilities District Board, said that as the city and district plan a second campaign for The Link, it’s important to get it right. Including hockey facilities could make the request more appealing to voters, she said.
“We’ve got a lot of people in the community that really support youth hockey,” she said.
The Link package inclues a 2,300-seat Broadway-style theater capable of hosting touring productions as well as a 50,000-square foot expansion of the convention center and a 30,000-square foot lobby to connect the Toyota Center to the convention center and theater complex.