No splash parks in 2012, but a public aquatic center may be on t - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

No splash parks in 2012, but a public aquatic center may be on the ballot

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RICHLAND, Wash. -- Summer is almost over, but it looks like the Tri-Cities may be dry next summer too.  Plans for two private water parks are drowning in money problems.

The developers of "Shark Reef Water Park" in Kennewick say they weren't able to get the financing. Mark Hillman issued a statement saying that approval on a $10 million loan in any economy can be difficult, but in a struggling economy it has proven to be impossible. Hillman says they plan to look at the project again, once things improve. 

Developer Jim Hale says plans for another park, "Bahama Bay" in Pasco are also struggling in this tough economy.

Randy Willis, is with the Tri-City Regional Aquatics Task Force.  The group raised over $20,000 to fund a design concept study that was produced by ORB Architects of Renton Washington.  The design is one of the four projects being considered by the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District, a committee made of nine representatives, three each  from Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick.

"This is the only community above 200,000 in population West of the Mississippi that does not have an indoor public facility," says Willis.  He says, " people right now travel to Pendleton, Hermiston, Moses Lake, to use public facilities from the Tri-Cities on a daily basis."

He says the sales tax added would be worth the benefits.  "<For every thousand dollars you spend, you pay an additional two dollars, for a ten dollar purchase two cents," says Willis.

Gwen Luper, the Executive Director of the Benton-Franklin Council of Governments is the PFD's  administrator. She says a recent survey done by 666 Tri-City voters speaks for itself.  The Regional Aquatic Center,  picked as most important project by 61%, the  Regional Performing Arts Center trailed behind at 54%. 

She does say many other factors are considered by the PFD before a final decision is made.  Things like providing a competitive advantage for the Tri-Cities, does it have broad community use, will voters approve it, capital cost, operating expenses and so much more.

The aquatic center is the most expensive of all four projects considered, at $37.5 million dollars.  The Performing Arts Center comes in close at $25 Million.  However, there is no business plan submitted for that project yet.  The PFD is expecting to see actual figures and a plan in October.

The other two projects for consideration are the Interpretive Reach Center, which costs $40 million, however the PDF would only have to finance $14 million more.  The Three Rivers Convention Center Expansion comes in at $15 million as well.

Luper says the PFD will make a final decision on what to put on the November ballot by January.