SEATTLE — A trip to the desert might be nice on those cold Seattle days.
That's what the Oak View Group (OVG) and NHL Seattle are banking on as they push forward on efforts to create a hockey hub in southern California.
“The snowbirds love it. There are a lot of hockey fans in town, it's a compliment to our weather," said Tom Davis, spokesperson for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
The tribe is teaming up with OVG and NHL Seattle to build a new, $250 million sports complex adjacent to the tribal casino. Seattle’s American Hockey League (AHL) franchise will be the anchor tenant of the 10,000-seat arena.
"Being a Seattle franchise, we have a lot of folks from the northwest and Canada that come visit," Davis said.
Davis said the tribe worked for months on the arena deal, wanting a building that could serve as an entertainment hub of its own. The tribe and the OVG also plan on using the building as a concert hub, but hockey will be the anchor.
The Palm Springs arena will be built just five minutes from the airport and give the valley two additional sheets of ice.
Legendary Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Grant Fuhr now lives in Palm Springs year-round. He said he remembers first visiting the area while playing with the Edmonton Oilers, training on a small half rink in the mall.
“They had a little half rink,” Fuhr recalled. “We’d practice here just so we could practice, but they used to bring us here for three or four days to getaway. Then we’d go from here to L.A. to play the Kings.”
Seattle and Everett have five daily non-stop flights to Palm Springs in the winter, which will be convenient for shuttling players between the NHL club and its top affiliate.
The groundbreaking for the Palm Springs arena is scheduled for February. The subterranean building is scheduled to open for the AHL team, along with a full slate of concerts, in 2021.