The Three Rivers Campus in Kennewick lost out on $14 million this past year because its facilities didn't meet the space requirements for at least two dozen interested groups and businesses, the executive director said Monday night.
Those events together would have drawn an additional 50,000 people to the West Grandridge Boulevard campus, as well as to Tri-City hotels, restaurants and stores. But Corey Pearson said when organizers contacted him, he reluctantly had to inform them that the site didn't meet their needs.
Expansion of the campus -- which includes the Three Rivers Convention Center, Toyota Center and Toyota Arena -- and upgrades to technology and building materials are a necessity, Pearson said at a joint meeting of the Kennewick City Council and Kennewick Public Facilities District.
"This is a position I've never been in before in having our clients begging us to make improvements so we can accommodate them," Pearson said. "That kind of response we get, that is just unheard of. They're saying, 'When can you get this done? We don't want to go.' "
The convention center has a 21,600-square-foot ballroom that also is used as exhibit space and 11,500 square feet of meeting rooms.
What it really needs is "a true exhibit hall" with 30,000-50,000 square feet, because the current space can be filled with tractors one day and formal dinner guests the next.
Kennewick council members floated the idea Monday of taking it to the voters in either a special or general election. If residents want to see growth on the campus with more revenue potential for the city, they would support a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase, council members said.
In addition to the expansion, the Toyota Center is 25 years old and is in need of repairs.
The Public Facilities District has been working on replacing seats, getting new furniture in the suites and Charter HD Lounge, and upgrading the basketball floor, lighting and kitchen.
Board Chairwoman Barbara Johnson said the center is showing its age, as "a lot of mechanical things are old."
"We need to come to the realization that this building has done a great job for the 25 years that it's been here," she said.
But the district needs $350,000 for a new roof, and the Columbia Center Boulevard marquee is an "eyesore" that either must be repaired or replaced, Pearson told the city council.
They're also in need of aisle lighting, a mechanical system replacement and additional staging to keep up with all of the events, he added. And the arena, which is now 12 years old, needs the flooring replaced, more skates for visitors and lockers.
The facilities, which are managed by VenuWorks, saw 618,049 visitors this year, Pearson said.
He reported that 2012 ticket sales through Ticketmaster show 43 percent are to Tri-City residents -- 19 percent of those in Kennewick -- and 58 percent regionally.
Pearson and Johnson said the campus should be enhanced with the building of a SpringHill Suites by Marriott next to the convention center.
The first phase is for 112 rooms with the design allowing for a 50-room expansion later. Vijay Patel, president of A-1 Hospitality of Kennewick, has said he wants the hotel open by February 2014.
The district previously agreed to build an enclosed connection between the hotel and the convention center.
Kennewick Mayor Steve Young commended Pearson and the entire facilities board on their work this year.
"You've been a successful PFD," Young said. "I'm proud of what you've done in keeping the building afloat."
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org