Reach center in Richland saw 7,000 visitors since July

The new Reach center in Richland has drawn 7,000 visitors since it opened in early July.

It's also welcomed hundreds for events from private parties to youth day camps and concerts.

And as the hybrid museum, interpretive center and performing arts venue enters its third month, officials continue to think about the future.

The Richland Public Facilities District board, which oversees the facility, is developing a plan for the unfinished basement. Officials had envisioned using the 10,000-square-foot basement to hold Hanford site artifacts from the federal Department of Energy, but that effort has stalled.

They're now thinking about a work-based learning lab and small business incubator, with features ranging from a demonstration kitchen to space for events, classes and visitor food service.

"We want to keep moving forward. At the heart of it, there's so much potential here (with the center). We want to explore that potential," said Lisa Toomey, Reach CEO, noting feedback from visitors is helping guide the future plans.

The facilities district board last week voted to move ahead with programming and conceptual design work, although it only authorized spending money on the first step -- the programming -- and will vote on spending money for the conceptual design at a future session. The total price tag for programming and conceptual design is about $47,500.

"We want to move forward cautiously and make sure money is available," said Rick Jansons, board vice president.

The programming and conceptual design will help determine what's feasible, what the space could look like and the estimated cost.

The Reach center had its official opening day on July 4. Its 14,000-square-foot main level has two galleries -- one holds a permanent exhibit on the Hanford Reach National Monument and surrounding lands through time, and the other debuted with an exhibit on the Manhattan Project.

Other indoor features range from an exhibit on Columbia Basin agriculture to an aquarium holding Columbia River fish. Outside, the Reach has two stages and features from metal silhouettes of Reach wildlife created by local students to a section of an irrigation pivot used in agriculture.

The Reach is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. Reach center members and children under age 5 are admitted for free.

More information: www.visitthereach.org.

-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald