Our Voice: State revitalization money would help Vista Field

Now that the south end of Kennewick is thriving, it makes sense for city officials to learn from that success and apply it to other projects — primarily the development of Vista Field.

Kennewick City Manager Marie Mosley said the city soon will be setting priorities for the coming year, and attempting to once again get funding through the state Local Revitalization Financing (LRF) program is a likely goal.

A bill sponsored by State Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, that could have provided more revitalization money to jump start projects like Vista Field died during the last legislative session.

But another attempt should be made next year.

Brown should try again, with primary support from Kennewick. It also wouldn’t hurt if the Port of Kennewick and the other players involved in the Vista Field vision showed support for the legislation as well.

The bill proposed last session would have made $5 million more in state money available to the state LRF program.

Kennewick city officials helped lobby for the investment, explaining how well it had worked for the Southridge area. But money was too tight, and it took legislators two overtime sessions to approve the state operating budget, so the bill died.

Getting ahead of the next legislative session, however, would be a wise move, especially if all the agencies involved in the Vista Field project could come together and show a united front.

If Vista Field could end up as successful as the Southridge development, that would be exciting for the entire Tri-City region.

The LFR program offers up to $500,000 a year to help pay off the bonds used to build infrastructure in a special revitalization area, such as the Southridge Sports Complex. The money comes from property taxes and sales taxes generated by businesses that locate in that district.

So much tax revenue was generated from the tremendous growth at Southridge that those bonds were paid very quickly.

There’s no question that developing Southridge was a gamble that paid off.

Kennewick’s use of that money is a great example of how investing in infrastructure at the right time and location can lead to an explosion of growth. Last year, the state received $4.9 million in sales tax from the Southridge area.

Business there is bustling, and just last week, the city held five ribbon-cuttings for five new restaurants there. That does not happen in communities unless there is some force of energy pushing it.

And Kennewick certainly found a way to direct all that momentum to the south end of the city.

The LRF program helped make that growth possible, which is what it was created to do. Now that Kennewick has proven its success at Southridge, it makes sense for the city to try and use that LRF program at Vista Field.

Judging at what has happened at Southridge, that initial, financial infusion is worth every penny.