Tri-Cities finally gets an aquatics center, thanks to Pasco voters

It’s thrilling to see Pasco residents come together to make big things happen for the community, particularly a project that puts the “family” into “family-friendly.”

Pasco voters agreed to a modest increase in the local sales tax to pay for an aquatics center in the April 26 special election.

We know Tri-City children (and adults too!) will love swooshing down the slides, diving through the lazy river and frolicking in the wave pool.

Officially, the city’s voters authorized the Pasco Public Facilities District to collect 2 cents on a $10 purchase on most but not all sales, with proceeds dedicated to repaying a bond (or bonds) that will be issued to build the $40 million center.

For their money, Pasco residents will get a recreation center with indoor and outdoor water features. It will be unlike anything seen elsewhere in the Tri-Cities.

The city’s residents likely will get breaks on user fees, thanks to their generosity in approving plans for the project.

Pasco leaders began dreaming of an aquatics center some 20 years ago and even put the issue before Tri-City voters in 2013. It failed when voters in Richland and Kennewick said no to supporting something that wasn’t in their respective city.

Nearly a decade later, Pasco convinced the Legislature to amend the law to allow it to pursue the project on its own. It reckoned that its fast-growing population was ready to proceed without the help of its neighbors.

Instead of asking the region to approve the project, it confined the request to Pasco.

As in 2013, its voters said yes, 55% to 45%, or 4,166 yes votes to 3,399 no ones. Voter turnout was 22.5%.

The Pasco Public Facilities District hasn’t announced a site for the aquatics center – the 2013 site was sold when the project appeared dead.

Too, it has been reluctant to publicize images of what it could look like. It fears complaints if the actual complex doesn’t mirror the renderings.

It should choose a site and share images from its longtime aquatics consultant, Ballard*King & Associates. They look terrific and likely will generate enthusiasm for the project – and encourage daydreams about summertime pool fun.

It’s a project long overdue. 

We expect the development to become a regional draw, further bolstering the Tri-Cities’ efforts to become a tourism destination.

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