The "outdoor event center" is scheduled to open at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser, Wash. this coming June.
—Port of Benton has scored $2 million in federal funding as it continues its focus on activities rooted in Washington state’s wine industry. The public works grant is the final component of funding required to move the long-awaited Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center to construction.
Named for Walter Clore, the Washington State University
researcher hailed as the father of the modern Washington wine industry, the Clore center will be built in 2012 at a cost of approximately $4 million. Port of Benton will develop and own the facility, which will operate as a not-for-profit organization.
“(It) will definitely have a positive impact on the state’s wine and agricultural industries,” said Deb Heintz, executive director of the Prosser Economic Development Association and vice chair of the center’s board of directors. “It will have that impact through education, increased product and brand awareness, job creation and building stronger ag-based communities across the state.”
The center will occupy a 24-acre site overlooking the Yakima River. It will include a tasting room, demonstration kitchen, conference facilities and exhibits detailing the agricultural and viticultural heritage of the area, among other features. Teaching vineyards, interpretative and production gardens as well as riverside trails will connect the center with the region it showcases.
A 2,400-square-foot outdoor events center is currently in the final stages of construction on the site and will open by this June. The events center is a separate project financed by a combination of federal and state funding as well as private contributions.
Plans for the center complement Port of Benton’s expansion of Vintners’ Village on the opposite side of the Yakima River. Sales of serviced lots in the second phase of the 50-acre development will soon begin in earnest.
“We expect some interest to come as a result of the Clore center being built,” said Diahann Howard, director of economic development/governmental affairs for the Port of Benton.
The expansion of consumer-oriented facilities in Prosser augments plans for another major wine project in which Port of Benton is active—development of a new Wine Science Center at WSU’s Tri-Cities campus a 45-minute drive east. The center will likely be built on Port of Benton property, but no timeline is set for construction.
WSU quietly began fundraising efforts last summer with the aim of assembling $26.2 million for the project, including $12 million for a 45,000-square-foot research facility and teaching winery built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. Richland is establishing a Public Development Authority to facilitate the center’s development.
To date, WSU has garnered a $250,000 commitment from Northwest Farm Credit Services
for its research center as well as $100,000 from wine industry stalwarts Ted and Joy Baseler and another $100,000 from Tom and Anne-Marie Hedges.
Port of Benton’s support for the project has been key, however, said Caroline Troy, executive director of development for the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. The port’s active role in the region’s various wine industry projects underscores the critical role the industry plays in job growth and economic development. Coupled with cleanup of the Hanford nuclear site, the wine industry has given the mid-Columbia area one of the healthiest economies in the state.
“There’s a great understanding out there that wine brings in so much. It changes communities—just look at Walla Walla,” Troy said. “It brings tourism, but it brings culture and energy, and it brings businesses that want to be associated with that energy and culture.”