NHL Seattle and Oak View Group have been awarded an American Hockey League (AHL) expansion franchise, which will play at a new arena on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation in Palm Springs, California.
NHL Seattle will enter the major-league ice hockey competition in 2021 and will play at the renovated KeyArena venue. The AHL is the NHL’s primary development league and NHL Seattle’s new affiliate will play at an arena that is due to break ground next year.
The announcement comes after Oak View Group earlier this year confirmed plans to build a 10,000-seat venue on tribal lands in Palm Springs through a partnership with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, a federally recognised Indian Tribe in the US.
The Palm Springs AHL team will become the league’s 32nd franchise. The new, privately-financed arena is expected to cost $250m (£204m/€229m) and will be based north of the tribe’s casino, two blocks from Palm Springs’ main downtown thoroughfare.
Tim Leiweke, chief executive of Oak View Group, said: “I must tell you we are very fortunate that two years ago we began with Agua Caliente about doing something special in the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs.
“We wanted to create a point of destination for music, for big events, for conventions, for exhibition, and for hockey. We wanted to bring a permanent franchise to the Valley. You deserve to have a team and club that represents you every day. Agua Caliente was phenomenal in its commitment … and to do it privately without taxpayers ultimately underwriting any part of this project.”
The $250m of private funding will include the construction of a brand-new training and practice facility for the AHL team. The complex will be located five minutes from the airport to make it easier for AHL players to travel to Seattle when called upon by the NHL team.
Both NHL Seattle and its AHL franchise will begin playing in October 2021.