Getting to and from the Tacoma Dome during popular shows can be a drag, so lately ticket holders have been asked to show up early and stay late.
For now there’s not much to do in the area surrounding the Dome. The city of Tacoma would like to change that.
It is soliciting bids from firms with the expertise and capital to develop an entertainment district on 10.6 acres of city-owned land adjacent to the facility, which hosts scores of events each year, from major concerts to high school basketball tournaments.
The idea is to create a space where concertgoers and other Dome patrons could frequent restaurants, arcades or any number of diversions before and after their big show.
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“We are wide open as far as concept,” said Kim Bedier, director of venues and events for the city of Tacoma.
The city is asking developers to pitch their ideas by May 8.
Such a venue might resemble the Kansas City Power & Light District, built near that city’s concert venue — the Sprint Center, Bedier said.
The district has served as a community gathering spot during major sporting events, including basketball tournaments and the Kansas City Royals’ successful World Series run in 2015.
That much larger property includes dozens of restaurants, an Alamo Drafthouse theater, bakeries, spas, hotels, apartments, stores and bars, including “Kansas City’s most stunning country bar: PBR Big Sky: A Coors Banquet Bar,” featuring live country music, according to the district’s promotional website.
The district is credited for bringing new life to an area of Kansas City’s downtown, redeveloping a zone that was previously filled with decrepit or abandoned storefronts.
It hasn’t been all fun and entertainment for the Kansas City project.
While the district has seen capacity crowds for events, taxpayers there are still on the hook for millions of dollars of subsidies. Kansas City’s latest budget calls for $14.2 million from the city’s general fund to pay for debt service on the project’s entertainment side, a subsidy to continue for decades.
For the Tacoma project, a successful bidder would partner with the city to talk about traffic circulation, replace the 594 parking stalls lost during development and offer at least $8 million for the property, according to the request for proposals.
Right now, the site is a blank slate and includes a parking lot framed by trees, but its frontage along southbound Interstate 5 has high visibility. On average, 228,000 vehicles passed by the Dome each day in 2016, according to state traffic counts.
The company selected to develop the Tacoma property would negotiate a purchase-and-development agreement with the city to buy the land. Companies would have to demonstrate adequate project financing.
Proposals also must include a $800,000 deposit, which would be returned to those not selected or if the city and finalist cannot come to an agreement.
City officials are convinced there’s demand for such a project.
Traffic during Tacoma Dome events can be a trial. In 2016, the Dome hosted 67 unique events with 119 event days. On-site parking was overflowing for more than half of those.
Dome staff sends messages to ticket holders encouraging them to avoid traffic snarls by arriving early and staying late or by using alternate transportation, including Tacoma Link, Bedier said. Construction on I-5 often exacerbates traffic problems on show days.
“We have food trucks on the plaza after every show to encourage attendees to hang out and not have to sit in their cars in traffic,” she said.
For now, there is no firm deadline by which the property must be developed , said Pat Beard, a project manager with the city’s Economic Development Department. That would be negotiated as part of the development agreement.
“Given the positive market conditions in Tacoma right now, we are looking for a near-term project rather than a long term or speculative project,” Beard said via email.