Port, city of Kennewick collaborate on Vista Field

The port and city of Kennewick are putting their heads together to come up with a solution to dueling plans for the Three Rivers Entertainment District and Vista Field.

At odds is connectivity and efficiency.

Where Port of Kennewick consultants envision a road to connect Vista Field to the entertainment district, the Kennewick Public Facilities District imagines a building.

The issue in planning for the redevelopment of the former airport was identified during a Port of Kennewick commission meeting last month. City and port leaders met in early January to hash out how to make collaboration and changes to the road network function, port commissioners were told during a recent meeting.

The end result is that Michael Mehaffy, a project manager with Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., will meet in Spokane with the architect from ALSC Architects, the public facilities district’s consultant, said Tim Arntzen, the port’s executive director. Duany Plater-Zyberk is helping the port develop a master plan for Vista Field using input from more than 180 community members.

The duo will come up with possible solutions to integrate the two draft plans, he said.

The proposed road at the heart of the discussion would go through the existing parking lot and between the Three Rivers Convention Center and the Toyota Center to connect Okanogan Place and Grandridge Boulevard, according to a conceptual drawing from a recent series of Vista Field interactive community workshops. The road could be similar to the two-lane road on Clover Island and would allow some vehicle traffic and easy pedestrian access.

It would make it easier for pedestrians to walk from conventions or sports games to the restaurants, cafes, retail shops and entertainment venues that may become part of the new Vista Field town center. A performing arts center also has been discussed as a potential catalyst project for Vista Field.

However, public facilities district officials are considering a draft plan that would put a food court in the middle of the proposed road. That food court would connect to the Toyota Center and to a new exhibit hall added to the convention center. It would provide services to sports fans and convention goers alike.

It also would create a wall of buildings between the entertainment district and Vista Field.

Public facilities district officials are searching for an expansion plan that the public can embrace after voters turned down a 0.1 percent sales tax increase to build a $20 million expansion of the convention center more than a year ago. The current proposal is a way to buy more time for the aging Toyota Center by addressing the lack of concession space, bring in more revenue and possibly incorporate performing arts space.

Public facilities can act as catalysts for development, said Larry Peterson, the port’s director of planning and development. But he and Mehaffy were concerned the draft plan for the Three Rivers campus would place all the energy of the Toyota Center and convention center back toward the parking lot instead of allowing it to spread into the surrounding neighborhood and onto Vista Field.

It’s important to find something that financially works for the public facilities district and the port without giving up key qualities the public asked for, Peterson said.

“All of this property we are talking about in this immediate vicinity is owned one way or another by the public,” said Don Barnes, port commission president.

Public property owners in the Vista Field area other than the port and the city include Kennewick Irrigation District, Ben Franklin Transit, Benton County, Kennewick School District, Kennewick Public Hospital District and Benton PUD.

“Vista Field is kind of an island in itself and it needs to have access to the outside,” said Port Commissioner Skip Novakovich. “And how that happens, I’m not sure. Maybe there are compromises to be made, maybe there isn’t.”