Hermiston city councilors discussed their top priorities for the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center and whether it was too late to change the center’s name on Monday.
City manager Byron Smith said the city needed to find the right balance for EOTEC between drawing people in for larger regional events and serving the local community.
Dennis Doherty, one of EOTEC’s founders, shared with the council that the regional aspect was what encouraged local hoteliers to voluntarily implement a tourism promotion assessment on their rooms, and helped get millions of dollars in funding from the state.
“I was a part of that and I would be embarrassed if I had to go back and talk to them and they’re asking, ‘What’s going on?’” he said. Councilor Lori Davis asked whether the city needed the “trade” part of the project’s name anymore, and it sparked a discussion about EOTEC’s name. Some councilors pointed out that the “event center” part of the name confused people who thought the event center building was the entire project, and suggested perhaps the city could keep the recognizable acronym but call it the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Campus or Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Complex.
Mayor David Drotzmann said it would be ideal if a big donor stepped forward and the event center building at EOTEC could be renamed after the donor.
EOTEC manager Al Davis said the biggest question he gets when he tries to market the center is where in Eastern Oregon it’s located.
He suggested the logo and other marketing materials might say something like “The Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center at Hermiston,” but councilor Doug Primmer said the city wouldn’t be able to use the acronym EOTECH because it would infringe on the copyright for a private company by that name.
Out of the priorities listed for EOTEC’s continued development, most councilors agreed water was probably the top priority, followed by landscaping that would increase shade and block dust and noise.
“We have to know we’re going to have water before we plant the trees,” Jackie Myers said.
The city has potable drinking water available for use at the site but is hoping to develop a more affordable option for irrigation, either by purchasing water rights or digging a deeper well. The city does have two alluvial wells on site but they have only been used for testing purposes due to neighbors’ concerns about dropping water levels in the neighborhood.
Councilor Roy Barron said he thought building an RV park on the site was still the number one priority, because the park would start earning money to fund the other projects.
“If we don’t have anything to generate revenue, it’s going to be very hard on the taxpayers of Hermiston,” he said.
Smith said traffic and parking at EOTEC is another priority. He said Umatilla County has done the design work for widening and improving Airport Road and the county hopes to have the project done by this year’s fair and rodeo in August. Both he and Drotzmann expressed skepticism that would happen.
The council plans to continue the discussion of EOTEC at their next work session.