Regional Aquatic Center Debate - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Regional Aquatic Center Debate

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RICHLAND, Wash.-- A vote on a proposed aquatic center is just days away and Wednesday, the debate continued over whether the project is a good idea for the Tri-Cities.

Next Tuesday, Tri-Cities voters will decide if they're willing to approve a one-tenth of a cent sales tax increase to fund a regional aquatic center.

There are strong opinions on both sides of the debate over the proposed facility.

The Richland Kiwanis Club hosted a debate Wednesday to break down the details for voters.

"This is a citizen driven grassroots effort. This was initiated by the public, not the politicians," said Randy Willis, a longtime supporter of the regional aquatic center.

Tri-Citians told the regional PFD an aquatic center was at the top of their list for a new public facility.

The proposed $35 million facility will include indoor and outdoor pools for year round use.

But some people think these plans aren't the way to meet local needs.

"The facility as proposed is a commercial style water park. That is predominantly catered toward tourism. It is not catered toward serving our local community needs of providing swim programs," said Vic Epperly, an opponent of the proposed facility.

Epperly suggests the sales tax increase should go toward updating city pools to indoor facilities instead.

"Our population has doubled since 1990. All of our cities need municipal pool space. This does not provide it," Epperly said.

But Willis argues a regional aquatic center will triple the amount of public pool space and offer the same things city pools do and then some.

"This project will improve dramatically the quality of life in our community. It will be a big advantage to us to use for our citizens here locally. It will be something that will draw people here," Willis said.

Supporters say the proposed center will bring in tourist dollars from swim meets and regional pool access.

But many are concerned about increasing the sales tax for a facility that studies show will operate in the red and a tax that has no defined end date.

Voters will decide on August 6th.

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