The Kennewick Public Facilities District is making plans to ask Kennewick voters this fall for a one-tenth of 1 percent sales-tax increase to pay for expansion of the Three Rivers Convention Center.
The board Thursday night approved a resolution that starts the process of sending the request to the November ballot. The Kennewick City Council still must give its blessing.
"We are in a corner. We have to expand in order to not only take advantage of new and larger business that is available within the region, but to maintain existing business that has outgrown the use of the current facility," said board member John Givens during the meeting.
"I think it's timely," added board president Barbara Johnson. "I think we have a good message that we can give to the voters in the city of Kennewick as to the type of economic development that this convention center has brought to the community since its inception."
The Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District board also plans to seek a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase this year. That measure will go before voters in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick -- likely in August -- to pay for an aquatics center.
Givens also is a member of the regional board. That group "knows well that this was something that we were going to have to do. They have no issues with it," he said during the Kennewick meeting Thursday. He said there was concern about running the two measures in the same election, but the Kennewick PFD wouldn't be able to meet deadlines for the August primary anyway.
The sales-tax increase for the convention center project would generate an estimated $1.3 million to $1.5 million annually -- money that would be used to pay off bond debt incurred to finance the expansion. The expansion would include an exhibit hall of up to 50,000 square feet.
Corey Pearson, executive director of the Three Rivers Campus, said the convention center has had to turn away business because of lack of space. "There were 22 groups last year alone that contacted us to use our facility, but we weren't large enough," he told the Herald.
He said some groups that use the facility for conferences and events also are outgrowing it.
Johnson said she hopes voters support both the convention center and aquatics projects.
"I think it is an exciting time for not only the (Three Rivers) campus but for the community. There are two really good projects out there right now, with the aquatics center and the expansion of the convention center, which (will) both, from my perspective ... be very beneficial to this community."