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Oak View Group overhauls Palm Springs arena plan

A deal between Oak View Group (OVG) and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians for a new downtown Palm Springs arena has fallen through, with OVG and a new partner unveiling an arena plan for nearby Palm Desert.

The original plan for the downtown $250-million Palm Springs arena was certainly ambitious: Located on 16 acres of tribal land, the arena would have been more than 300,000 square feet and feature as many as 10,000 seats or more and include modern amenities such as suites and premium hospitality clubs. The arena was to include an adjoining facility that will serve as a year-round community gathering space as well as the training center for an expansion AHL team and Seattle Kraken affiliate, set to begin play in the fall of 2022 as the league’s 32nd team.

But with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians pulling out of the project—a February groundbreaking was delayed, with a formal withdrawal taking place in March as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear—the game plan for the arena changed.

Enter the H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation, which will lease 43 acres in Palm Desert to OVG for the privately financed arena, with Live Nation Entertainment remaining as a partner and event manager. The new arena is now pitched as the Greater Palm Springs Arena. The size and the scope of the arena remains the same, but the location is different. From the Desert Sun:

The foundation started working with OVG earlier this summer, said Doug Vance, the foundation’s vice president of real estate, and jumped through a lot of the normal hurdles because the foundation has been preparing it to house a project like the arena since purchasing the land in 2003.

“We’ve done a lot of the pad work and utility work and offsite improvements for streets,” Vance said. “That expedites exactly what Tim (Leiweke) needs to meet his timeframe. We have a shovel-ready pad. … It’s been over-excavated, re-compacted, certified, grating permits, we’ve been working for years on this development. 

“They needed a place where they could have an advantage in speeding up the timeframe and this met all their criteria.”

Building a new downtown arena seems to make for an automatic success: proximity to the Palm Springs Convention Center would have elevated both venues as event destinations, as would proximity to downtown hotels. The new arena location is a little more remote and certainly won’t cause the traffic jams locals worried about in the downtown location. At the new site, parking won’t be an issue—the 43-acre site has plenty of room for parking lots—and freeway proximity will allow easier access to and from events. Still, at a time when urban venues are all the rage in terms of economic development, a venue on the freeway and surrounded by parking lots is certainly a throwback move.

Renderings courtesy Oak View Group.

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