Research facility will include state-of-the-art laboratories


Capital Press

RICHLAND, Wash. -- Design-build proposals will soon be accepted for construction of a Wine Science Center at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

A request for qualifications will be issued about Jan. 3 with statements of qualification due about Jan. 23. A short list of firms will be developed based on their responses. They will be notified by Feb. 5 followed by a request for proposals.

The research and teaching facility, which will cost an estimated $23.3 million, will be built next to the WSU Tri-Cities campus in Richland. The center will house 30 WSU faculty dedicated to wine industry research and education.

The Wine Science Center Development Authority, which will accept the proposals, is managed by the city of Richland. Land for the center was donated by the Port of Benton and fundraising is led by WSU.

The center is separate from the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center near Prosser for which a $3.2 million construction contract was recently awarded.

The Clore center is aimed at tourism and wine promotion with continuing education classes but not credits toward a degree, said Deb Heintz, first vice president of the Clore Center.

"Our center is more promotion and brand awareness. WSU's center is student education, a curriculum and degrees. Both centers are needed and will complement each other," Heintz said.

The WSU center will include state-of-the-art laboratories, a research and teaching winery, a regional and international wine library, classrooms and conference rooms -- all connecting WSU's viticulture and enology faculty and students with industry and research partners worldwide.

"Every world-renowned wine region has a research university partnering in its success," said Ted Baseler, who is president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, a WSU regent and chair of the WSU Campaign for Wine.

Research and teaching at the center will be specific to challenges and opportunities for grape growers and winemakers in the Pacific Northwest. Washington's grape and wine industry aims to triple its economic impact, already at $8.6 billion, by 2020.

More than $17 million has been pledged in the past two years for the project, including contributions from the Washington State Wine Commission for $7.4 million through industry assessments, a $5 million legislative grant, a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant of $2 million for equipment, numerous corporate and private commitments, plus in-kind donations of equipment and professional services.

Fundraising for the center is in final stages with ground-breaking scheduled for fall of 2013.

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