Two things are obvious inside the Southridge sports pavilion that now is open to the public at Southridge Boulevard, just across the road from Southridge High School.
The sounds echoing across the expansive room that is large enough to fit three basketball courts are a bit softer than in typical hard-floored gymnasiums, and there is no wind on a blustery March day buffeting players and the ball.
"It's different, for sure. There's not a facility like this anywhere in the Tri-Cities," said Brandon Lange, marketing and sponsorship coordinator for the Southridge Sports and Events Complex.
Kennewick's new $3.2 million pavilion provides the first indoor practice facility suitable for field sports events in the city's history. It can accommodate soccer, pickleball and basketball activities year-round, regardless of the weather outside.
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The large space was created as a multi-purpose center that could be used for staging special events such as trade shows, car shows, large weddings and private parties, too, said Evelyn Lusignan, Kennewick public information officer.
While the official grand opening for the 30,000-square-foot pavilion, which is fully air-conditioned, is still two weeks away, Lusignan said city staff are eager to open it to the public.
Once the certificate of occupancy was issued last week, Kennewick's parks and recreation staff opened it for make-up basketball games. That "soft opening" drew almost 500 children and parents, and the public has been dropping in every day since then, Lusignan said.
The pavilion's public hours are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
In addition to the indoor playing area, the building has offices for five city employees, and an upstairs meeting room for small groups.
Built by Charles William West Construction of Kennewick, the pavilion's design includes a lobby with room for a food concession stand, bathrooms and an elevator to the mezzanine meeting room that overlooks the main floor.
Originally planned as an aluminum-ribbed structure with a tentlike membrane stretched over the top, the contractor convinced the city he could put up a metal building for the same cost and make it about 35 percent larger.
The pavilion has a concrete floor overlaid with interlocking rubber tiles that are designed with a shock absorbing backing that minimizes the impact to players' backs, feet and legs.
The pavilion project was announced a year ago.
The indoor sports practice facility is the last piece to take shape in the city's Sourthridge Sports and Events Complex, which includes four softball fields, soccer fields and open areas placed on about 42 developed acres along Southridge Boulevard near Hildebrand Boulevard.
Money obtained by Kennewick through the state's Local Revitalization Funding Program is paying for the pavilion. The city applied to the state program, qualifying to receive up to $12.5 million over the next 25 years as an advance on tax revenues expected to come as the Southridge area develops.
Most of the city's investment in building roads and extending water and sewer service into Southridge will be paid by the state money. The pavilion project also qualified to be included in that state funding.
Lange said the pavilion already is attracting interest.
"We had a kid drop in to play basketball today. It costs $2 for an hour," Lange said.
The facility is open for drop-in use, or a team can rent an entire court for $39. The entire three courts costs $117 an hour.
Lange said anyone who wants to schedule a time and pays before April 1 will receive a 20 percent discount.
For more information about scheduling events, call Lange at 585-4279 or the front desk at 585-4293.=
-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; email@example.com