The third time likely won’t be the charm for the Kennewick Public Facilities District and its dream of expanding and modernizing the Three Rivers Convention campus.
Kennewick voters were soundly rejecting Proposition 17-4, a sales tax hike that would have paid for a $45 million package of upgrades dubbed “The Link.”
With an estimated 70 percent of ballots cast in the Nov. 7 election counted Tuesday night, 5,147 voters were saying “no” compared with 3,858 saying “yes,” or 57 percent to 43 percent.
The Benton County elections office will update the results at 4 p.m. Wednesday. It said it had counted around 25,000 ballots and projects an additional 10,000 ballots remain to be counted.
Barbara Johnson, chair of the Kennewick Public Facilities District, which placed the proposition on the ballot, was not available to say if the district will do next.
The proposal already has failed twice, first in 2013, then again in 2016 when backers added a 2,300-seat “Broadway-style” theater to the lineup.
The facilities district asked for a 0.2 percent sales tax increase to support bonds to pay for the upgrades, which would have expanded the convention center, modernized the Toyota Center and added a third ice skating rink at the mid-Kennewick property.
It would boost the local sales tax rate to 8.8 percent and would have cost the average household an estimated $30 per year.
The 2016 request failed by fewer than 300 votes, which inspired supporters to try again this year. The margin of loss this time is more than 1,200 votes.
Supporters added a $5 million ice rink to replace the aging one that hosts youth hockey at Pasco’s TRAC. Franklin County wants to close it down for financial reasons.
Without a replacement, the Tri-City Amateur Hockey Association would not have enough ice to support its programs.
Prior to the election, association officials said they were working with TRAC and Franklin County to keep the ice rink there open beyond the end of the current lease to ensure youth hockey continues in the area.
Tuesday’s package would add 110,000 square feet to the convention center and provide upgrades to the Toyota Center, including better facilities for visitors who use wheelchairs, and the theater between them.
Supporters argued that Kennewick stands to lose out on future convention business if it does not upgrade and expand the Three Rivers complex to keep up with its competition.
They cast The Link as an investment in keeping the tourism economy afloat by inspiring $66 million in economic activity that would filter through the community in the form of jobs, visitor spending and tax dollars.
In its third outing, the proposal drew heavy fire from organized opponents, including a Kennewick City Council member running for re-election and another candidate running for an open seat.
John Trumbo, who easily won re-election to the council after not drawing a challenger, and Bill McKay, who was leading Christy Watts in a contest for the seat being vacated by Councilman Bob Parks, argued that private business, not taxpayers, should pay for the project.
Both men said Kennewick tax dollars should support essential services, such as police and fire.