PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Last June, the Oak View Group — owners of NHL Seattle — announced that they had reached an agreement with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Palm Springs to build a new arena for an AHL franchise in 2021-22. In September 2019, the league and OVG made it official in an announcement awarding an AHL franchise to Palm Springs.
It took a global pandemic (and a few other setbacks) to throw a wrench in those best laid plans.
According to The Desert Sun, a combination of parking issues, public safety concerns, and the State of California still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic has placed the future sports and entertainment venue on hold.
Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Oak View Group, stated that the delay should yield to much more important matters going on in the city, state, and around the world. But, he also wasn’t sure if the project was going to continue on after things had calmed down.
“Once we get past (the virus) we’ll make a decision if we’re gonna proceed. We shouldn’t be the story and we’re not going to be the story. We’re gonna let everyone stay focused on the virus. That’s where the priority should be.”
This statement comes on the heels of the arena’s February groundbreaking being delayed due to “extenuating circumstances” before the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in March. As Leiweke proclaimed, Palm Springs and California have bigger fish to fry, reaching 10,000 cases statewide last week. However, in spite of the virus’ effect, Palm Springs Assistant City Manager Marcus Fuller says that the city ultimately has no control on whether the project moves forward or not.
“(It’s) really up to the tribe. This is really a tribal project on their property. It’s not really a city project.”
Parking issues have also been a concern for residents who fear that sporting events and concerts could bring more traffic and limited vehicle parking for those living in surrounding neighborhoods. A new proposal submitted in March looks to alleviate such worries, creating space-efficient diagonal parking spots instead of ones parallel to the adjacent roads. Other nearby parking lots and garages were also outlined to help take the pressure off nearby roads.
Lastly, public safety has also come up in discussions (should the arena be built). The Palm Springs Fire and Police Department said that they would need $20 million for new facilities and equipment, plus another $3.6 million in an annual increase for staff members.
Fuller also commented that, in spite of the public health safety concerns with COVID-19, the Agua Caliente tribe indicated that the new arena would be completed in two years time. He pointed to the fact that a vaccine would more than likely be available after the arena was built. He also said this gives ample time to address and resolve any other issues regarding parking, public safety funding, and other concerns brought up by the community.
“So I don’t know that (the pandemic is) really an issue, but I think that certainly COVID has really changed everyone’s plans. Nothing’s changed with regard to how we’re going to address or accommodate the arena, should it proceed. We’re just kind of waiting to see what’s the next step.”
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