Governor lauds partnership, looks to economic growth as construction starts on Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – The Cougar flags blowing majestically in the breeze were ideal for the site of the Wine Science Center at Washington State University Tri-Cities, noted Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

WineBanner“Red and white are the colors of the best wine we make in Washington state,” he quipped to the audience of 200 community, university and grape and wine industry attendees at this morning’s groundbreaking ceremony in Richland.

“We believe in wine and we believe in science. We are marrying those two things today,” Inslee said. “The Wine Science Center symbolizes the power of partnerships.”

A creative collaboration with the Port of Benton, which owns the land, and the City of Richland, which provides administrative support, resulted in formation of the Wine Science Center Development Authority.

Construction is to start immediately on the 39,300-square-foot, LEED silver facility at the corner of George Washington Way and University Drive. Employing up to 75 construction workers, the building is expected to be complete in early 2015.

The conceptual design by Lydig Construction Inc. and ALSC Architects, both of Spokane, includes a research and teaching winery, state-of-the-art research laboratories, classrooms, conference rooms and a 3,500-bottle wine library. A dramatic central lobby will provide views of the research winery floor and outdoors toward the Columbia River and the WSU Tri-Cities campus.

The $23 million project is designed to attract world-class researchers and students who will focus their efforts on the challenges and opportunities faced by Pacific Northwest grape growers and winemakers. More details on the project and its unique partnerships are at

Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission, explained how the grape and wine industry has experienced explosive growth since it started 30 years ago. Now with nearly 800 licensed wineries and an economic impact of $8.6 billion, Washington wines consistently outperform wines from other regions of the world, he said.

“If we’re this good in 30 years, how great can we be in the future?” Warner said. “The Wine Science Center will take us to new heights.”

New donors to the Wine Science Center were announced today by Ted Baseler, a WSU regent, chair of the WSU Campaign for Wine and president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. They include:

• Chris and Amy Figgins, Leonetti/Figgins Family Wines, $50,000
• Rick and Darcy Small, Woodward Canyon, $25,000
• Dave and Deb Hansen, Cougar Crest, $25,000
• Greg and Stacy Lill, DeLille Cellars, $10,000

Fundraising efforts for the Wine Science Center are in the final stretch, with $2 million needed to complete construction and $2 million needed to fully equip the building. A total of $19 million has been raised since the campaign started about three years ago.

WSU has been involved in wine-related research since the 1930s and is the only university in the Pacific Northwest offering bachelor’s and graduate degrees in viticulture and enology, plus a wine business management program and a distance education program to earn professional certificates.

Thomas Henick-Kling joined WSU in 2009 as director of the viticulture and enology program (V&E), which has about 33 faculty members in the Tri-Cities, Prosser and Pullman – nearly the same size faculty as at the University of California Davis.

“This is much-needed space for researchers and students,” Henick-Kling said, noting that the V&E program enrolls about 50 undergraduate, 29 graduate and 120 certificate program students. “The Wine Science Center will allow us to expand our research capacity to address the challenges and opportunities for industry growth.”

About WSU Tri-Cities
WSU Tri-Cities is located along the scenic Columbia River in Richland, Wash. Established in 1989 with upper division and graduate programs, WSU Tri-Cities expanded in 2007 to a four-year undergraduate campus offering 18 bachelor’s, 10 master’s and six doctoral degree programs. Learn about the most diverse campus in the WSU system at and about WSU’s viticulture and enology program at

Melissa O’Neil Perdue, Marketing and Communications Manager, WSU Tri-Cities, 509-372-7319, cell/text 509-727-3094,