A faction of the community has been desperate for an aquatic center for years.
One Franklin County commissioner thinks he may just have the solution right off Road 68 in Pasco: Turn TRAC into a family recreation center with an aquatics park.
Commissioner Brad Peck wants the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District to consider the project.
And Pasco -- the county's partner in TRAC -- may be on board as well. City Manager Gary Crutchfield called the idea a "very viable option" and plans to discuss it at a city council retreat this week.
The Pasco Public Facilities District already has hired a consultant to look at the idea of adding an aquatics center at TRAC. That group also would have the ability to operate TRAC as a family recreation center if the regional PFD -- which hasn't even had discussions about the idea -- doesn't want to participate.
Creative thinking always is encouraged. Even when a new idea isn't adopted, it still can spark another proposal that might work.
In the case of TRAC, a hard look at its purpose in the community should be taken every few years.
TRAC, despite having its best year ever for revenue, still needs additional money from the city and county to meet operating costs.
And while many public facilities -- if not most -- operate in the red as the norm, budgets are tighter than they used to be.
Has TRAC ever realized the full potential of the vision of its creators since it opened in 1995?
It seems the facility struggled to find its niche over the years, but current management has kept the facility busy with a steady string of large and small events, bringing in $2.3 million last year.
Despite the rosy revenue stream, TRAC still lost almost $400,000 in 2011. With the city's obligation to equally share TRAC's losses with the county ending in 2014, Peck's interest in alternatives is understandable.
TRAC would be an ideal location for a family recreation center. It has an ice rink, large indoor spaces and adjacent soccer and softball fields. Families already flock to the area.
Converting a portion of the facility to a water park would be no small feat. While there are no schematics for how a water park would be installed, we can imagine the indoor arena as the potential site for the pool. But it was built for equine events, not swimming. Retrofits can be more costly than new construction at times.
Of course, the recreation center and water park all are speculation at this point, though with Crutchfield expressing interest, the city is sure to take a serious look at the idea. We haven't heard from any other county commissioners on the concept, but we're confident Peck will keep the issue alive.
On the other hand, TRAC has value for the community just as it is. It has meeting rooms and a large convention hall and the indoor arena. It's about the only place in the region that can accommodate a large-scale indoor equine event. And it's home to many community events, from antique shows to the Red Cross Real Heroes Breakfast to the Pasco Chamber's Ag Show.
Sure, we have a convention center in Kennewick, but its operators say they need more space. A recent ad for the facility already showed the conceptual drawing of the addition they hope to make there. Chief among the complaints is that the convention center lacks a large exhibit hall and adjacent hotel, two things that TRAC already has.
Despite that, a family recreation and aquatics center at TRAC is worth a careful look. The public already owns the facility, and there's plenty of real estate to work with. We'll be interested to see what happens from here.