Kennewick voters will get a third shot at upgrading the Three Rivers Convention Center complex.
This time, the plan includes a new ice rink in the middle of Kennewick.
The Kennewick Public Facilities District board voted recently to resubmit its ambitious package of projects, collectively called “The Link,” to voters. The board left the actual election date up to a subcommittee, but it will likely appear on the Nov. 7 general ballot.
Barbara Johnson, chair of the district board, said the vote was unanimous. The board is betting that the narrow defeat last year can be reversed. The request failed in 2013 and again in 2016, when it fell less than 300 votes short of victory.
Johnson said the district will submit the request for the Nov. 7 election on Monday, which is the deadline to qualify for the ballot.
It could withdraw in favor of a later date if it concludes it doesn’t have enough time to educate Kennewick residents about the request.
Voters will be asked to approve an 0.2 percent sales tax increase, or 2 cents on a $10 purchase, to make what convention officials say are much-needed improvements to win meeting and convention business and to better serve the local community.
The tax would apply to most sales, though some, notably sales to Oregonians with proof of residence, are exempt.
The new tax would generate about $3.5 million annually and would be used to repay bonds issued to pay the upfront cost of the convention complex upgrades. Collection would end after 20 years.
The Link package includes a 50,000-square-foot addition to the convention center, a 30,000-square-foot addition to Toyota Center and a 2,300-seat theater linking the existing buildings. The theater would provide a permanent setting for performances and would eliminate the need to reconfigure the Toyota Center Arena as the Retter & Company (formerly Windermere) Theater for non-sports performances.
The package includes a $5 million ice rink. The ice rink plan is being pushed by the Tri-Cities Amateur Hockey Association, which faces the loss of its primary home at Franklin County’s TRAC. The TRAC rink uses obsolete equipment and is unprofitable.
TRAC’s owner, Franklin County, is considering closing the rink as it reviews ways to make TRAC profitable.
The public facilities district believes it can build the ice rink into the existing budget by changing the way work is phased and altering reserve requirements for the project.