By Andy Eide
Oak View Group, along with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, announced Wednesday plans to build a 10,000 seat arena in Palm Springs, California. Further, OVG and NHL Seattle have jointly applied to the American Hockey League for an expansion team, beginning play in 2021.
NHL Seattle had previously said it had narrowed down its search for an AHL affiliate to either Palm Springs, or Boise, Idaho. Wednesday’s news confirms that Palm Springs is the preferred choice.
“The new arena in downtown Palm Springs is a terrific project. If we are successful with our application for an AHL Franchise, it would represent an exciting opportunity to bring the first professional hockey team to this region,” said Tod Leiweke, CEO of NHL Seattle said via release. “We are confident that the market is ready to embrace a winter sports team and that the community will help us achieve the minimum level of season tickets and premium sales we need.”
The new arena will be a 300,000 square foot facility built on 16 acres of tribal lands. It will also feature an adjoining building that will be used for community events along with the AHL club’s training facility.
Ground breaking for the new arena is set for February of 2020 with an open date in the fall of 2021.
No time frame, or details, concerning the expansion approval process from the AHL were provided. However, AHL CEO and President Dave Andrews, during the 31 Thoughts Podcast on May 30th commented on Seattle and said, “I think, in an ideal world, Seattle would end up in a new arena in Palm Springs.”
With an arena plan in place, all signs appear towards the league naming Palm Springs as its 32nd franchise at some point in the future.
The AHL has been in operation since 1936 and is one of the oldest, active professional hockey leagues. League rosters are made up of prospects signed to NHL contracts as well as free agents who play under an AHL contract.
By placing its affiliate on the West Coast and in California, NHL Seattle would be able to quickly recall or scout prospects, as flights from Seattle to Palm Springs are quick and plentiful.
In recent years the AHL has expanded west and what was predominantly an east coast league has spread out. The league currently has a Pacific Division that features affiliates of the Arizona Coyotes (Tucson Roadrunners), Anaheim Ducks (San Diego Gulls), Los Angeles Kings (Ontraio Reign), San Jose Sharks (San Jose Barracuda), Edmonton Oilers (Bakersfield Condors), Calgary Flames (Stockton Heat), and Colorado Avalanche (Colorado Eagles).
Palm Springs’ close proximity to what would be the franchise’s division foes allows for easier travel in what is still predominantly a bus league.