How Lacey got its athletic complex

September 22nd, 2009 by Ken

In 2002, the Washington State Legislature authorized cities and counties to establish a Public Facility District for the purpose of creating visitor and convention facilities.  These facilities would be funded by a return to the district of .033 percent of all state sales tax revenue generated in the district.

The City of Olympia, always ready to grab onto free money when it could, determined to build a convention center.  The deal fell apart when city officials couldn’t agree on several points, the estimated costs came in far higher than anticipated and there was little community support for such a facility.

Meanwhile, in Lacey, city officials there saw an opportunity to grab the public facility district money, estimated at about $40 million, and build their own facility.   They opted to build a Sports and Recreation complex. 

And so began an 18-month battle between the City of Lacey and its partner Thurston County, against the City of Olympia and the City of  Tumwater for those new funds.

Since the convention center had fallen through, the City of Olympia hung its hat on the creation of a new Hands On Children’s Museum and got the Port of Olympia to go along with the proposal for its property.

In Tumwater, officials there decided an Aquatics Center would be perfect for the district.

It took months of talking, cajoling and bickering, before the four agencies reached an agreement.   Tumwater dropped its idea and embraced the compromise, with had Lacey and Thurston County getting 71.7 percent of the money, while Olympia received 28.3 percent.

Lacey started to work almost immediately on a 100-acre site at the corner of Marvin and Steilacoom roads.   Olympia began figuring out how it would pay for the new Children’s Museum.

On September 18, 2009, about a week ago, the City of Lacey and Thurston County officials formally dedicated the Regional Athletic Complex, which goes by the name RAC.   It features six regulation soccer fields including one with all-weather turf, four regulation softball fields with all-weather turf and lighting, one minor league-rated baseball field with all-weather turf as well as lighting and an electronic scoreboard. 

It also features 3 half-court basketball areas, five picnic shelters, walking and jogging trails and 20-acre of preserved property in its native state.

The City of Olympia has identified a site for the new Hands on Children’s Museum and has put money into getting the project off the ground.  Supporters of the museum are currently involved in raising the additional money needed to build the facility.

Posted in Government, History, Informational, Local Politics, The Real News

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