The Three Rivers Convention Center brings in millions of dollars to the Tri-Cities every year.
KENNEWICK, WA-- The Three Rivers Convention Center brings in millions of dollars to the Tri-Cities every year.
Plans to try and double the size of the convention center and the big business it brings into the region is now in the hands of the voters. Next month voters will decide if they'll pay an increased sales tax to give an expansion project a go.
Kennewick residents will have the opportunity to vote on Proposition 1 on November 5th. The $20 million expansion will result in a 1/10 of 1% sales and use tax increase, which amounts to 1 cent per $10 purchase.
More than a million people have passed through the convention center since it opened almost a decade ago. All those people spend their dollars here and boost the economy. But the demand for the convention center is outgrowing its space.
"Now we're getting to the point where some of our biggest customers, which have the largest impact on our community, are starting to outgrow us and there are several more throughout the region that we're not able to attract."
Pearson says the region lost $18 million this year from conventions that just couldn't fit there. The biggest competitor, the Spokane Convention Center, is expanding and might take away local business.
"We need to sustain what we have and make sure that those customers are not going to be leaving us. Second, there's some new business that could be pulling into the Tri-Cities region as well," said Cory Pearson, Three Rivers Convention Center executive director.
A privately funded new hotel is already planned and will be built next to the building.
Plans for the convention center addition would add a new exhibit hall and expand the lobby. The $20 million expansion would cost tax payers an extra penny in sales tax on every ten dollar purchase.
People NBC Right Now spoke with were split on the proposal.
"All for it. I think that would be very beneficial for our community as well as our families that live here," said Sandy Nettleton.
"You get a lot of people going to Hermiston to get away from the sales tax already so to add more tax here I believe would hurt business more than it would help," said Cindee Cook.
Pearson says if the sales tax increase passes next month, construction on the convention center could start as early as next summer.
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