Pasco wants an aquatics center. Find out what it might look like this time around

Pasco officials will hold a pair of meetings Tuesday to gather comments on plans to ask voters to pay for an aquatics center.

Six years ago, voters across the Tri-Cities rejected an ambitious $35 million plan to build a competition pool, surf simulator, zero-depth entry pool, current channel and slide tower on Sandifur Parkway in Pasco.

Pasco votes were enthusiastic about the idea, supporting it by a margin of 57 percent. But they were outvoted by their neighbors across the Columbia River, so the regional aquatics measure failed.

Pasco didn’t give up.

The aquatics center has long been a top priority for the city, which sees it as a critical family-friendly offering for the growing population.

But its efforts were thwarted by state law, which didn’t include aquatics facilities in the list of amenities cities can build under the public facilities program.

Law change in 2019

The 2019 Legislature paved the way for that when it approved Pasco’s “vote to float” bill.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser, added aquatics centers back to the list. Jenkin’s bill had a chaotic trip through Olympia, but eventually passed both houses. And Gov. Jay Inslee signed it into law on May 9.

The bill didn’t authorize Pasco to actually build an aquatics center, only to ask its voters if they’re willing to raise sales taxes to pay for it.

Pasco would ask its voters to approve a one-tenth or two-tenths of a percent sales tax. The new tax would provide ongoing revenue to repay bonds that would be sold to build the aquatics center.

The Sandifur property was previously sold for a Subaru dealership.

But the Broadmoor/Road 100 area is often described as the most likely location for the project.

The Pasco Public Facilities District Board meets at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers at Pasco City Hall, 525 N. Third Ave., to review a new feasibility study.

The public also can share ideas at an open house from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at the Pasco Police Community Services Building, 215 W. Sylvester Road.

Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.