Should the city build the Performing Arts and Conference Center? | Federal Way Forum

The proposed Performing Arts and Conference Center is expected to cost nearly $32 million and is slated for the former Toys “R” Us site on 20th Avenue South near the Transit Center.  - Contributed
The proposed Performing Arts and Conference Center is expected to cost nearly $32 million and is slated for the former Toys “R” Us site on 20th Avenue South near the Transit Center.
— image credit: Contributed

Editor's Note: The Federal Way Forum is a new monthly feature, presenting different views on a particular issue. Please fill out the community survey following the point and counterpoint views regarding the proposed Performing Arts and Conference Center. All surveys will be relayed to city of Federal Way leaders for their consideration as they weigh in on the issue.

Point | Benefits of the Performing Arts and Conference Center

Why does Federal Way need a Performing Arts and Conference Center?

There are many ways to answer that question, one being that there is nowhere in Federal Way to hold any kind of large event, from class reunions to service clubs’ major dinners and fundraisers. Because Federal Way needs downtown stimulus, this facility will kick-start economic development, energizing the area day and night with activities.


The dual business model of housing both performance-based events and conference/business will be extremely attractive locally and regionally. The site, at the former Toys “R” Us store, will be a beacon of interest for the city, with easy access to the Transit Center.

What kind of events could be held there?

Our local performance groups will finally be able to present their concerts and fundraisers in a facility meant for performance, instead of a church or a school multi-use room (flat floor lunch room with stage). Their audiences will have the opportunity to grow, and enjoy state-of-the-art sound and lighting. Touring performance groups could add Federal Way to their circuit. We’ve already had interest from some.

There could be: Lectures, debates, conferences, corporate meetings, hobby shows, choral and dance competitions, talent shows, ballroom dances, receptions, weddings, bridge and chess tournaments, political gatherings, training classes, ethnic celebrations and festivals, science, health and arts fairs, garden shows and exhibits, trade shows, weightlifting and fitness competitions, historical exhibits, travel expos, a variety of fundraisers. Banquets for up to 425!

Found anything yet? Does that sound like it’s “only for the elite?” That it will sit empty? Did you know that the nearest large performance hall, Auburn Performing Arts Center, turns away requests several times a week? That it often has three events per day scheduled? They would be delighted to refer some to our PACC when it’s built.

What has been done so far to show this could be successful?

There have been feasibility studies over the years, recently updated. They determined a 700 seat hall with 8,000 square feet of conference space was appropriate. Experts in the field of managing performing art centers have helped develop the pro forma. A Blue Ribbon Panel, consisting of nine people from a variety of backgrounds, has been appointed by the mayor to study the PACC project. They will be presenting their findings to the Council May 8.

What about fundraising and community connection?

Several presentations on the PACC have been offered during Council and other meetings.

The Federal Way Coalition of the Performing Arts (FWCPA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the city to raise $1 million locally. They helped develop and fund informational brochures, which have been distributed at various meetings, created a website, www.federalwaypacc.org, and presented a “Rally for the Arts” concert, featuring five of the member organizations, plus a Thomas Jefferson choral group. They raised more than $126,000 in one afternoon.

More than $660,000 in pledges have been raised. A subcommittee of the FWCPA is researching and writing grants. Other aspects of the funding are being addressed through various sources. The next fundraiser will be “Concert for the PACC,” scheduled for May 31. Details soon.

The construction of the PACC will take approximately 18 months.

Let’s get started! Here’s to a more vibrant and engaging, pedestrian-friendly downtown, with the PACC at the center of it all.

Joann Piquette is the president of the Federal Way Coalition of the Performing Arts.


Counterpoint | City can’t afford to operate the Performing Arts and Conference Center

Does it seem strange to you that a commercial real estate broker is against commercial development in Federal Way?

I have been a resident of Federal Way since 1972. I am a product of Federal Way Public Schools and graduated from Federal Way High School. I am also a graduate of Highline Community College. I am giving you this information so that you will know that I have deep roots in the community. My business is here and my family is here.


Many people have spoken in favor of the Performing Arts and Conference Center (PACC), which I believe would be a great addition to the community if it would just pay for itself. All of the financial data points toward the need for the city and our tax dollars to help pay for running the PACC.

As a volunteer in numerous groups and charities in Federal Way, I can think of lots of things in Federal Way that need more support. Ask me to support more police. Yes. Ask me to support the homeless. Yes. Ask me to support the food bank (Multi-Service Center). Yes. Ask me to support another building that does not pay for itself. No.

I personally love the arts and go to as many productions with my family as time and funds allow. I have seen all types of buildings used for the arts. Old schools in Portland and even an old power plant in Walla Walla.

I have read the financials from nearby performing arts centers and see that the amount of public funds that have to be spent for the first five or 10 years is significant.

The proponents of a PACC in Federal Way appear to be thinking with their hearts and not with their intellect. They believe that a building alone will improve Federal Way and create money in the community. They hope the PACC will help further development of the downtown.

A building will do none of this. I can tell you this, if it was a great idea, a private developer would have built it years ago.

With commercial real estate, a successful business rents a space for a while. When the business grows, it rents a bigger space. When the business becomes even more successful, the owners will start looking for a property to buy.

The advocates of a Federal Way PACC say, “Build it and they will come.” I would like to believe this, however, the logical part of my brain says this is not the way it will work.

I believe that a public/private partnership is the way to proceed with this type of project. Here is how it could work:

1. The city of Federal Way and supporters of the PACC build the building.

2. A private operator, such as a hotel or restaurant, agrees to run the center at no cost to the city for a five-year contract. What if we can’t find a private operator? That means that this project won’t work and it should not proceed.

Please use reason and common sense when considering this project. I believe in the people of Federal Way and think they should have had a say in this from the start. Instead, our city government has pushed and prodded and finagled their way to this point. We have spent a lot of public money and still have the same problem: We can’t afford to operate the PACC.

Byron Hiller is a commercial real estate broker in Federal Way.


Click here to take our PACC Survey


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