Some ideas are beginning to come into focus at Vista Field.
For a while, it looked as if fractured visions and competing visions for what a performing arts center should be would derail hopes of that facility becoming a fixture of the new entertainment district planned at the former airfield in Kennewick.
But last week, things went from quite uncertain to quite plausible during a public meeting held by the property’s owner, the Port of Kennewick.
The port, which has been working on redevelopment plans for Vista Field since closing it in 2013, unveiled a proposed master plan during a public workshop last week . The plan includes providing space for a performing and visual art center as an anchor venue for the project. All three port commissioners expressed support for the concept. They’ll need to formally vote to provide the land at a future meeting to make it final.
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Port commissioners’ demonstrated further commitment to the initiative when they instructed staff to work closely with the Arts Center Task Force.
Before performances can be booked many hurdles still exist; commissioners haven’t made a formal decision, the Arts Task Force needs to figure out a way to pay for construction, an operating plan needs to be developed and infrastructure needs to be installed. It could be years before the doors open but it now appears to be a question of when, not if.
At times the various agencies involved in the area seemed to have different ideas of what should be built and where. That kind of bureaucratic snarl could have derail or delay the project. But, at least at this point, the overall needs of the community trumped agency turf wars.
The Arts Center Task force has been consistently involved with the Vista Field planning process over the past year and has simultaneously been working on a facility plan for a 700 to 800-seat center with gallery space.
If the commissioners formalize the plan it will be a win for the arts community, the community at large and the port. A performing arts center will attract other developers looking to capitalize on crowds who come to see performances. In turn, the port could help the arts group with its fund-raising efforts for the center by providing it with a deed when the group reaches a certain level of committed funds. The deed could provide them with collateral to help secure a loan to complete the project.
A performing arts center has long been a priority for patrons and performers, but has lacked site, a cohesive vision and the funding to make it a reality.
Now, just maybe, there is a viable path forward paved by cooperation between the arts community and the port.