TRAC ownership at issue for Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District

The Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District board is worried it could take months for a deal to be reached on ownership of the TRAC center before an aquatics park project can proceed.

The regional board voted earlier this summer to make the $35 million aquatic center its first choice for a regional project, providing it be built at TRAC in Pasco.

The board is anxious about having enough time to explain the project to the public before asking voters in Richland, Kennewick and Pasco to approve a 0.1 percent increase in sales tax next fall. The revenue would pay to build the project.

The Pasco Public Facilities District board proposed repurposing TRAC facilities off Road 68 for an aquatics center.

But that can happen only if Franklin County commissioners and the city reach a purchase agreement that would transfer ownership to the city and the Pasco Public Facilities District.

Negotiations are continuing, but the regional board is not involved.

"The Pasco board needs to keep us informed," said Kennewick Mayor Steve Young at Wednesday's meeting.

The regional board discussed needing answers from Pasco about how the TRAC deal is progressing, a timeline for developing the aquatic center and what it will include.

"I'm troubled that we don't know who will own the facility and what they want. This needs to shake out," said John Givens, a regional board member and member of the Kennewick Public Facilities District.

"We are waiting on all these pieces," said Rebecca Francik, board member who also serves on the Pasco City Council.

Don Britain, a Kennewick council member, said the Franklin County commissioners and Pasco city council should not delay their decisions, even if the future of TRAC is considered a political issue during the current election cycle.

Franklin County commissioners Brad Peck and Bob Koch have said repurposing TRAC to make it an aquatics center should not happen if it leaves Franklin County residents with no replacement ag and equestrian venue.

"I don't think (the regional board) should wait six months for negotiations to be completed between the city of Pasco and Franklin County," Britain said.

Young said he'd like to see representatives of Franklin County or the Pasco Public Facilities District board attending future meetings of the regional board.

"We can't go to the voters without a location, and we need a conceptual idea so there can be cost estimates," Young said.

The regional board wants to see if the aquatics center is doable at TRAC, or it may consider switching to one of the other proposed regional projects. They are a performing arts center, expanding the Three Rivers Convention Center with an exhibit hall or contributing toward construction of the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center.

"We can switch so at least we have a little leverage," Francik noted.

-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com