The Riverside County Board of Supervisors have given their unanimous approval to Coachella Valley Arena, an Oak View Group (OVG) project, stating that it has the potential to be a “game changer” for the Southern California region.

The Board of Supervisors has voted 5-0 in favour of the scheme, which aims to deliver a privately-funded sports and entertainment venue in Thousand Palms that will be the home of NHL expansion ice hockey franchise Seattle Kraken’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate team.

OVG is building the Coachella Valley Arena on 43.35 acres of land owned by the Berger Foundation. The arena, plus a training facility, will cover more than 300,000 square feet and feature 11,000-plus seats.

After the vote, Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, who represents eastern Riverside County, said: “This is, in my opinion, a game changer for our county, in the Fourth District and even more so, for Thousand Palms, an area that has struggled for a very long time.

“The fact that this is going to bring $11m (£7.76m/€8.99m) in state and local tax revenues for our county and will be helpful to the immediate area, that’s why we have so much support for this project.

“There are so many reasons why this is so important, one that I would like to express is the community benefit aspect, especially that our schools and our youth will have access. With California State University, San Bernardino Palm Desert Campus down the street, it will provide jobs, part-time and full-time jobs for our students.”

According to an OVG study, in addition to another commissioned by the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, the arena’s economic impact is projected at $108m annual direct spending from visitors and $141m in business spending. The project is also expected to create 1,400 jobs from construction of the arena, and over 1,500 positions once opened.

OVG in September announced fresh plans for the arena after revising the project. In 2019, OVG and Seattle Kraken, which will enter the NHL in 2021, were awarded an AHL expansion franchise and the team had originally been due to play at a new arena on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation in Palm Springs.

Groundbreaking for the new arena was postponed back in February 2020 due to “extenuating circumstances” and a new direction was revealed for the arena, which will be situated near the Classic Club golf course and not downtown Palm Springs. OVG had originally partnered with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians on the arena project but the group is no longer involved.

Commenting on Riverside County’s approval, Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group, said: “We would like to express our gratitude to Riverside County and Supervisor Perez as well as many others for their ongoing support in bringing a world-class arena to the Coachella Valley.

“As we enter the construction phase of the project, we will see the creation of nearly 1,400 jobs and more than $230m of economic output to Riverside County, which will provide a significant financial boost to stimulating, supporting, and sustaining the local economy.

“We continue to be committed to the community and in making Coachella Valley Arena a major destination for the biggest artists, concerts, and sporting events in the world, and are pleased the arena, which comes at no cost to taxpayers, will have such a positive, life-changing impact for the entire Valley.”

The Coachella Valley Arena is expected to break ground soon and open in late 2022.

Images: Oak View Group