It took tenacity to get the Reach museum built and it will take even more to keep it going.
While Reach officials say the facility is not about to close, its financial future is fragile and they need support from the community if the center’s mission is to continue.
In the two years the Reach has been open, that mission has become a valuable asset to the Tri-Cities.
The Reach is part science center, part museum and part event venue. It’s a place that can provide science programs for kids, a stage for Shakespeare plays and a wedding site for a bride and groom.
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Since opening in July 2014, the Reach has attracted more than 60,000 children, families, teachers, residents and visitors. It has been the site of numerous educational programs, totaling 167 as of mid-May.
The Reach is the one place in the Tri-Cities that explains who we are and what distinguishes us from other communities. In short, the museum shows what makes the Tri-Cities special.
But becoming a community treasure and attracting thousands comes at a high cost, and the Reach is running at a deficit.
This is not unusual for public museums — especially when they are still in the start-up phase. But officials are concerned and have reached out to the community for help while there is still plenty of time to turn things around.
There is only so much grant money available for endeavors like the Reach, and officials have been doing their best to get what they can — recently receiving a $10,000 tourism grant from the Port of Seattle.
But while grant money is a help, it won’t solve the ongoing financial struggle. Reach leaders recently had to make $150,000 in cuts that included closing on Sundays and laying off five full- and part-time staff members.
The Reach is overseen by the Richland Public Facilities District, which adopted a $1 million operating budget for the museum for 2016.
But the museum’s budget problems are not just a Richland issue. The Reach represents the whole Tri-Cities and the whole Tri-Cities needs to step up and help.
Officials with the Reach recently organized a public meeting to discuss the challenging financial situation and get feedback from the community on how to proceed. About 50 people attended — which is a good sign — and all seemed in agreement that the Reach provides an important service to the community and must be maintained.
But how to manage that is still up in the air.
Getting the Reach built was a slow, arduous task that took many years of planning and hoping. There were site issues and many delays, but the vision is now a tangible facility at the west end of Columbia Park.
Now that the Reach is built, people may tend to take for granted it will operate on its own. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Reach can’t fix itself.
The Tri-Cities persevered to get the Reach built in the first place, now it needs to continue that commitment so the center can thrive.