Plans to convert a patch of tribal land in downtown Palm Springs into a sports and entertainment arena have been nixed, although a venue development company still plans to build an arena in the Coachella Valley with a different partner, it was announced Wednesday.
Oak View Group is now planning to the build the 10,000-seat arena in unincorporated Riverside County, north of Palm Desert on land owned by the Palm Desert-based H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation, a local nonprofit which will lease the land to the company.
Oak View Group CEO and co-founder Tim Leiweke told the Desert Sun that the company’s partnership with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians “ultimately unwound.”
He also cited concerns over parking and traffic in downtown Palm Springs as hindering the original plans.
“After more than a year of good-faith negotiations we were unable to finalize an agreement with the Agua Caliente tribal leaders for OVG to lease, develop and operate the privately funded arena,” Leiweke said in a prepared statement. “We appreciate the ongoing support and encouragement from the community and are very pleased to be partnering with the Berger Foundation who share our vision for creating a world-class venue for the Coachella Valley and what will be one of the most premier music and professional sports arenas in the world.”
Tribal officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The 300,000-square-foot arena, which will house the top minor league affiliate of the Seattle Kraken NHL team, will be constructed on a roughly 43-acre site between Interstate 10 and the Classic Club golf course. Construction is expected to begin sometime next year and be completed toward the end of 2022, the company said.
Construction was originally supposed to wrap up by the end of 2021 in coordination with the hockey team beginning play. It remains unclear how the delay will impact team operations.
With the closure of Desert Ice Castle in Cathedral City in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Coachella Valley was left without a skating rink. The new arena is expected to fill the niche left behind in the figure skating, recreational skating and adult and youth hockey sectors.
Officials are also expected to work with Live Nation Entertainment to bring live events including concerts to the venue.
The arena was originally slated to be constructed on a 16-acre plot of land near the tribe’s downtown casino and the site of future tribal developments.
Plans to construct the arena in the heart of downtown Palm Springs had drawn community ire in recent months.
In January, a dozen Palm Springs residents calling themselves “Palm Springs Together” mailed letters to state officials pleading for them to get involved in the proposal, arguing the arena builders should be required to draft customary environmental reports.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is a federally recognized tribe and a sovereign nation with full authority over its land use decisions, meaning it is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act land use requirements.
A report from Palm Springs’ Department of Planning Services released in December noted “the city has no authority to approve or deny projects undertaken by the tribe on its own land.”
The letter came days after the city released a report that found the arena would be short 1,600 parking spaces, and that parking meters could be necessary. Parking and congestion issues surrounding the proposal remain unsolved.
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