Pasco’s TRAC arena will get a new temporary floor, but the temporary floor may merely signal a hiatus in the ongoing battle between those who want to keep its dirt floor and those who want it paved.
The Franklin County Commission voted 2-1 on Wednesday to spend about $170,000 from rural economic development funds on a new flooring system with rigid interlocking panels. The temporary floor can be installed over the arena’s dirt surface and removed as need be. It will replace an existing floor that is no longer safe to use.
The commissioners didn’t rule out paving the TRAC arena in the not-too-distant future, and cast the temporary floor as an interim solution while it develops a new plan to put TRAC on stable financial footing. That could include converting the outdoor arena into a full sized version complete with roof.
Commissioners Rick Miller and Ed Koch voted to purchase the temporary floor from Great Floors in Kennewick, saying the move keeps the dirt in the arena and honors Franklin County’s agricultural roots and TRAC’s mission to showcase the primary driver of its economy.
But both men said that TRAC’s future will likely include upgrades to the outside arena, so it can accommodate the livestock and monster truck events now held on the dirt indoors.
Commissioner Brad Peck cast the one “no” vote,’ saying the money would be better spent enlarging the outdoor arena and making plans to install a roof so TRAC can attract more rent-paying events sooner.
“There’s significant business that could be brought in by having a hard floor,” he said.
TRAC opened in 1995 and is owned by Franklin County, which splits the cost of operational losses with the city of Pasco. The facility had a $480,000 deficit in 2015. The new manager has been been under pressure to improve its financial performance to reduce the public subsidy.
It operated at a small profit in the first six months of 2016, according to the most recent figures. Manager Tom French has suggested selling naming rights could help stabilize the balance sheet as well, although nothing has come of the plan.
The proposal to pave the arena originated with the Home Builders Association of the Tri-Cities, which rents TRAC for its home and garden shows. The home builders said the deteriorating temporary floor is inadequate to serve its events and it proposed a deal to replace it with concrete.