Arts organizations pursue performing arts center

[blockquote quote=”Vista Field is a great location for a performing arts center and will add to the quality of life here.” source=”Steve Wiley, Task Force chairman” align=”right” max_width=”300px”]Local arts advocates have campaigned for more than 50 years to get a state-of-the-art performing arts center built in the Tri-Cities. That dream could become reality sooner rather than later, according to Port of Kennewick officials, who are working with the Arts Center Task Force and Arts Foundation of the Mid-Columbia to bring that project to fruition.

“We have a three-to-four-acre site in mind at the heart of Vista Field for the project,” said Larry Peterson, director of planning and development for the Port of Kennewick. “Vista Field is a great location for a performing arts center and will add to the quality of life here.”

Peterson said if the plan goes forward, the Port could deed the land for the project to the task force for $1. The task force hopes to break ground on the new facility in two to three years, with a grand opening in five years if the Port of Kennewick moves forward with providing the land, said Justin Raffa, a member of the task force committee.

The performing arts center is estimated to cost about $18 million, said Steve Wiley, Task Force chairman. Local arts supporters are currently collaborating on a grant-writing project to help fund the project and private donors have already committed $1 million to the project. “Our plans are to have opening night within five years,” Wiley said.

Wiley said his group has been working with the Port of Kennewick on the project ever since the Port identified a performing arts center as one of the top priorities for the Vista Field redevelopment project.

Performing arts centers that succeed are generally made possible by partnerships between public and private entities, said Wiley, who has been involved with the task force for about four years. Prior to that, Wiley was president of the local Habitat for Humanity board and helped steer the organization through a successful growth phase.

Jo Brodzinski, another Task Force member, said the group worked with the city of Richland for many years, trying to develop a project before building the relationship with Kennewick. “We originally wanted to build a large complex that would seat 2,000 with an 800-seat black box, but the cost was prohibitive,” Brodzinski said. “So, we began talking about building in three phases and settled on 800 seats, with a large lobby that could accommodate visual arts as well.”

The three planned phases for the Vista Field urban center include an Arts Incubator, which could be up and running as early and next year, said Chuck Eaton, of the Arts Foundation. The incubator would be in an existing Vista Field building. The two-story building has eight large rooms and a 50-foot-by-50-foot hangar with a 20-foot ceiling, Eaton said. The building would give all Tri-Cities’ arts organizations a business home under a single roof.

“The mission of the Arts Center Task Force is to foster and advance the arts of the Mid-Columbia by establishing a viable center for the performing arts”, he said. “The mission of the Arts Foundation of the Mid-Columbia is to enrich community through art, or more concretely, to build community by getting resources for art in all its forms.”

A capital campaign to fund the performing arts center project won’t begin until the task force has a written commitment from the Port of Kennewick, which is expected to occur this month. The Port’s master plan for Vista Field will be released at the end of the year. The task force also hopes to conclude its negotiations for the arts incubator in early 2016.

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