Spokane Park Board members say spending $2.8 million to repair and update Riverfront Park’s rusty and leaky Pavilion complex is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
The money would be better spent relocating the rides, arcade, ice rink and movie theater to more accessible spots on the park’s periphery, they say.
With the attractions gone from beneath its cabled roof, the Pavilion itself could find new life as an amphitheater or terraced garden, board members say.
At least one board member thinks it should be torn down.
During a retreat last week, Park Board members reached consensus - but didn’t vote - on several recommendations for the Expo ‘74 world’s fair icon.
Their proposal includes spending no more than $300,000 to make the Pavilion and its adjoining buildings safe, including fixing roofs that leak into the electrical system.
The board also plans to study how to raise money for park improvements.
“We’re kind of at a crossroads with that structure,” said Victoria Erickson, who chaired the subcommittee that studied the Pavilion’s fate.
“Overall, the board can’t recommend tearing down the structure, but there are pieces that aren’t viable.”
The Pavilion’s future has been in doubt since fall 1995, when voters turned down plans for a science center underneath and adjacent to the tentlike structure.
Science center supporters had hailed the plan as a way to keep the complex from falling into greater disrepair. Critics wanted to keep the Pavilion’s rides and games.
After the vote, disappointed Park Board members hired Integrus Architecture to find out what repairs the Pavilion needs and how much they would cost.
The $17,850 two-phase study found at least $2.3 million in work needed to preserve the Pavilion complex and its attractions, from sealing cracks in concrete to making the complex disability-accessible. The board estimated taxes and engineering fees would cost another $500,000.
Except for potential electrical problems, the Pavilion complex isn’t a safety hazard, said Tom Shine of Integrus. Most of those problems already have been fixed.
Even after spending $2.8 million, Park Board member say they still wouldn’t know what to do with the Pavilion complex.
The rides, movie theater and ice rink all have life expectancies of less than 10 years, Erickson said. The ice rink’s compressors are old and cranky. The IMAX technology is expected to be obsolete within five years.
A new theater would likely feature big-screen technology called OMNIMAX, if the city can afford it.
There is no money set aside in the Parks Department budget for rearranging and improving Riverfront Park’s attractions, said board member Dennis Hession.
“What we’re hoping to do, rather than throw good money after bad, is invest in updated technology on the periphery of the park,” said Park Board member Jeff Halstead.
Moving the attractions to the park’s northern edge would make them more visible and accessible, Halstead said.
With its attractions gone, the Pavilion could become a more “park-like structure,” with green space extending beneath the cabled tent, Erickson said. Under that plan, most of the adjacent buildings would be removed.
“The majority of the Park Board members recognized that the (Pavilion) is an important symbol to our community, and we want to keep that in mind,” Halstead said.
Councilman Jeff Colliton agreed, saying the Pavilion is “a legacy we owe the community.”
But fellow Park Board member Hession isn’t convinced.
“To me, it doesn’t have an aesthetic draw to it … Now we have a hulk, a residue of a grand tent that existed during Expo ‘74,” Hession said, noting that the Pavilion was built as a temporary structure. He added that his viewpoint was shared by only one other person on the 11-member board.
The board plans to hire a consultant to organize several community meetings to talk about the Pavilion’s future.
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