Plans to convert a patch of tribal land in downtown Palm Springs into a $250 million sports and entertainment arena are on hold, according to a report published Wednesday.
The CEO of the Oak View Group, a venue development company that has partnered with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians to construct the arena, told the Desert Sun that plans to begin constructing the proposed arena are “on hold as the coronavirus pandemic continues,” although additional information was not provided.
“Once we get past (the virus) we’ll make a decision if we’re going to proceed,” Tim Leiweke, CEO and co-founder of Oak View Group, told the paper.
“We shouldn’t be the story and we’re not going to be the story,” he added. “We’re going to let everyone stay focused on the virus. That’s where the priority should be.”
When contacted by City News Service, a tribal spokeswoman provided a statement from John Bolton, the general manager in charge of arena operations for Oak View Group.
“Given the current unprecedented times, discussions around arena construction timelines continue and we will provide updates when available as we work closely with the City of Palm Springs and Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians,” Bolton said.
The arena was slated to be constructed on a 16-acre plot of land bounded by East Alejo Road on the north; East Amado Road on the south; Calle El Segundo on the east; and Calle Encilia on the west. The site is near the tribe’s downtown casino and the site of future tribal developments.
A groundbreaking ceremony was scheduled for February, but was postponed last minute due to “extenuating circumstances,” according to the tribe, which did not offer additional information. A new groundbreaking date was never announced.
Plans to construct the arena in the heart of downtown Palm Springs have drawn instances of community ire in recent months.
In January, a group of 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 in the letter the arena should require drafting of 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.
The 252,000-square-feet arena is expected to be the home of the top minor league affiliate of Seattle’s NHL expansion team. Oak View Group and the Seattle NHL franchise have jointly submitted an application for an American Hockey League expansion team that would play at the arena beginning in fall 2021, tribal officials have said.
Construction was originally supposed to wrap up by the end of next year in coordination with the Seattle team beginning play.
The arena, if built, would be constructed to accommodate conventions, large meetings, international events as well as award shows and exhibitions, according to the tribe, and would have approximately 10,000 seats for hockey games and 11,000 for entertainment events.
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