The Richland Public Facilities District Board on Wednesday discussed a draft business plan that could have its signature project -- the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center -- opening in early 2014.
The six-year plan, known as a pro forma, outlines financial scenarios for the museum based on assumptions about its operations, including projected attendance numbers.
The plan anticipates 65,000 visitors per year to the 61,000-square-foot interpretive center, which is intended to tell the story of the region's geology, flora, fauna and history, from the tribes that once inhabited the Mid-Columbia to Hanford's legacy.
The project has been in the works since 2002, with officials breaking ground on the first phase of construction just a week ago.
The plan anticipates overall construction -- from the first phase involving a road and utilities to the completion of the museum in the second phase -- to last about two years from the time shovels hit dirt.
Officials expect to advertise for bids for phase one in November, with activity likely starting in December or January.
Part of the discussion Wednesday focused on the assumptions about ticket prices, and whether the proposed $7 admission adult admission was too low.
Board Vice President Fred Raab suggested that an $8 fee for adults would be comparable to other regional museums such as the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles, which charges $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $4 for children ages 6 to 16. Children 5 and under would be free.
The proposed admission for the Reach in the draft pro forma is $7 for adults and $5 for seniors or students.
A footnote in the pro forma suggests the rate could be raised if attendance falls short of projections, but Raab said it should perhaps go the other way around and admission should start slightly higher and go down if attendance is low.
He noted that a previous survey showed people expected to pay about $10 to enter the Reach.
No action was taken on the pro forma Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, the board had a closed door discussion about an agreement between the facilities district and the city of Richland about a contingency fund designed as sort of an insurance policy for the city in case the project can't be completed and the city has to take measures to restore the land in the west end of Columbia Park to its natural state, as the city's lease with the Army Corps of Engineers requires.
The Richland Public Facilities District, the public agency overseeing the museum's development, is required to put $1 million into the fund, although the city council recently began discussions about making a contribution from the city.
The board went into the closed meeting to hear advice from its attorney, John Herrig of Kennewick, about possible financial risks associated with the agreement.
Board member Rick Jansons said he would prefer to delay the discussion until the board's next meeting later this month as he first received the draft agreement at the start of Wednesday's meeting and had no time to read it beforehand.
But consensus of other board members was that it wasn't necessary to read the agreement first to hear Herrig's advice.
No action was taken on the agreement.