By Andy Eide
The uncertainty surrounding the Seattle Kraken American Hockey League affiliate in Palm Springs received clarity Wednesday morning.
As reported by The Desert Sun, Oak View Group’s planned 10,000 seat arena project, which had been delayed indefinitely, is back on albeit in a different location. Rather than being built in downtown Palm Springs the project has been moved north of the city to a location OVG hopes will make it more accessible to the greater Coachella Valley.
The new AHL team was slated to begin play in the upcoming 2021-2022 season but that no longer will be an option as ground breaking of the arena won’t begin until 2021 with a last quarter of 2022 completion target.
Because of that delay, the Kraken will not have a dedicated AHL affiliate in 2021-2022.
“On behalf of David Bonderman and our ownership group we are excited to share this vision of a championship AHL Franchise in a spectacular arena in one of the most beautiful communities,” said Tod Leiweke, CEO of the Seattle Kraken in a press release. “This new arena will offer a great game day experience from parking to puck drop and house a state-of-the-art training center. We will engage our fans in the Valley starting with the Kraken’s launch in 2021 as we sequentially build toward the launch of our AHL franchise.”
Originally, Oak View was going to work with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians on tribal land in Palm Springs for the arena location.
Groundbreaking was scheduled for this past February but the project was inexplicably delayed – a simple “extenuating circumstances” was the only reason offered by the tribe.
That delay put the project in jeopardy and forced the Kraken, along with OVG, to scramble for options.
“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,” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group via a statement.
The Kraken, who are set to play in the 2021-2022 NHL season, will need to have minor league players. Without a dedicated affiliate they will look to lend, or share, an affiliation with an existing AHL team.
Sharing prospects is not a unique situation as the Vegas Golden Knights had players join the independently owned Chicago Wolves in their inaugural season to play alongside prospects of the St. Louis Blues. Chicago became the sole affiliate of the Golden Knights the next year as the Blues reached an agreement with the San Antonio Rampage.
This summer, Vegas bought the Rampage and moved the franchise to Henderson, Nevada and berthed the Henderson Silver Knights who are now the Vegas affiliate.
Just 12 of the AHL’s 31 teams are independently owned and it would reason that it will be one of those 12 teams that Seattle looks to for housing its prospects for the 2021-2022 season. Vegas had 13 players in Chicago for its first season in 2017-2018, three of which were picked up in the expansion draft, two via trade, and the eight remaining were free agent signings.
No details as to a time line for selecting a team, or teams, to share players with was given. Kraken general manager Ron Francis and assistant GM Ricky Olczyk will be tasked with exploring options for their players.
The new Palm Springs Arena is privately funded and a partnership between OVG and the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation. Initially, OVG, received 2,500 season ticket deposits and says that they will honor the deposits as well as offer refunds to anyone who wishes one. The arena will be a 300,000 square-foot project used for hockey and other community activities as well as the AHL team’s practice facility.