Kennewick’s Vista Arts Center conceptual design unveiled

The primary conceptual image for the Vista Arts Center in Kennewick.
The primary conceptual image for the Vista Arts Center in Kennewick. Courtesy of Arts Center Task Force

It’s been years in the making, and now the Tri-Cities’ first full-time performing and visual arts center has a conceptual design — plus a sizable coalition of support and plenty of excitement as it moves forward.

Vista Arts Center will sit on about 2.2 acres at Vista Field in Kennewick, anchoring redevelopment of the former municipal airport owned by the Port of Kennewick.

The Arts Center Task Force, the nonprofit group spearheading the arts center effort, unveiled the conceptual design Tuesday.

“This really is a community center” — a much-needed cultural hub, said Steven Wiley, chairman of the task force.

Skip Novakovich, president of the port’s board, sees the center as an economic catalyst.

“It will drive people to Vista Field. It’s going to make people want to invest here,” he said. “The arts, it’s been said over and over again, is an economic driver. It really is. To have this (project), and to have this group be so excited about it, especially at Vista Field — it’s just beyond belief. It’s awesome.”

The roughly 48,000-square-foot facility will include an 800-seat theater, with an orchestra pit; a balcony; and a stage with a fly tower for suspending curtains, lighting and scenery.

The center also will have a community room, designed to hold 150 to 220 people, plus a gallery that can operate on its own or open into the lobby.

A pedestrian Art Walk will run in front of the center, highlighting the fun going on inside.

LMN Architects from Seattle developed the conceptual design.

The Arts Center Task Force worked with dozens of community groups on what should be included.

Mid-Columbia Ballet, Mid-Columbia Mastersingers, Mid-Columbia Symphony and Mid-Columbia Musical Theatre are task force sponsors.

Other local arts groups, from Academy of Children’s Theatre to The Rude Mechanicals, are supporters and weighed in. The Tri-Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce, Visit Tri-Cities and the Tri-City Development Council, or TRIDEC, also have endorsed the project.

Vista Arts Center will cost about $35 million. The task force is raising money through donations and grants. It isn’t seeking a sales or property tax increase to pay for the project.

The goal is for the center to open within five years.

An in-depth business plan is expected to be released soon, and it shows that the center will break even or make money in its first year, officials said.

Vista Arts Center is to be a bustling place — a performance space for the Tri-Cities’ many arts organizations, a place for graduations, lectures and other community events, plus a stop for mid-size professional touring groups.

“The idea is not to have a performing arts center that’s only open the weekends or the evenings, but something where there’s activity going on all the time,” Wiley said.

Vista Arts Center is different from The Link, a proposal to update and expand the nearby Three Rivers campus with money from a sales tax increase.

That project includes construction of a 2,300-seat theater, designed for larger touring shows from Broadway and the like.

The two projects don’t overlap and serve different needs, leaders from both have said. The Link proposal heads to the ballot in Kennewick in the fall.

Wiley said Vista Arts Center will improve the quality of life in the Tri-Cities.

The community has a lot to offer, but it lacks a cultural hub. The project has the chance to be “truly transformative,” he said.

“If you look at the Tri-Cities, what’s exciting is it’s got high-tech, it’s got farms, it’s got environment, it’s got outdoor activities, it’s got weather. What it doesn’t have is an urban center,” Wiley said. “To me, Vista Field and this whole concept of an urban center is the missing piece of what would elevate the Tri-Cities to be the most livable community in the entire state.”

To learn more about Vista Arts Center or to donate, go to artscentertaskforce.com.

Want to learn more?

The Arts Center Task Force plans four public open houses to share the conceptual design. Here are the details:

▪ 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Mid-Columbia Libraries branch at 1620 S. Union St., Kennewick.

▪ 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Mid-Columbia Libraries branch at 1320 W. Hopkins St., Pasco.

▪ 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Richland Public Library, 955 Northgate Drive.

▪ 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Mid-Columbia Libraries branch at 3803 W. Van Giesen St., West Richland.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, @SaraTCHerald