Palm Springs rings in new AHL franchise

Photo courtesy of The Chaparral. Oak View Partners, Mayor Robert Moon and kids pose at the introduction of the new Palm Springs AHL franchise.

BY ALEXANDRO ZATARAIN

STAFF REPORTER

“Today’s a dream, and it’s a dream come true.” With those words from Tod Leiweke, CEO, and president of the National Hockey League’s new Seattle franchise, Palm Springs has officially become a hockey town.

On Sept. 30, the city best known for its ties to Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe announced that it is the newest home of the American Hockey League, the second tier of professional hockey in the United States.

The announcement was made in front of a few dozen members of local media, fans and youth hockey players at the Palm Springs Convention Center’s Smoketree Room. In attendance were Tim and Tod Leiweke, the men behind the hockey operations, representatives from the Agua Caliente Band of Mission Indians and Palm Springs politicians.

Tod’s brother, Tim, is the CEO of the Oak View Group, a name Coachella Valley residents should get accustomed to. “This building is going to be beautiful. The vision that my brother and the tribe had was to have the valley’s first professional team,” said Tod as he referred to the new downtown Palm Springs arena Agua Caliente will be building.

The 10,000 seat, $250-million, privately-built project is set to break ground in early 2020 and be opened in fall 2021.

“When I see the young guys here who are budding hockey players it makes you think about all these young people in the Coachella Valley that are going to love to come here for the basketball games and hockey games and concerts and all the other amenities that are going to be offered at this beautiful arena,” said in Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon.

In his comment about basketball, the mayor was alluding to the Agua Caliente Clippers, the Los Angeles Clippers’ G-League franchise who currently play at the Toyota Arena in Ontario, Calif. Although no concrete proposals have been announced, it is not difficult to fathom the basketball team calling the new arena home.

The community was a prominent theme throughout the press conference. When The Chaparral asked how the group would get areas outside of Palm Springs such as Indio, Coachella and Desert Hot Springs involved, Tod said, “To make this work we’re going to need the support of the entire valley.”

Tod added, “We want this to actually be a home for the valley where people can come and celebrate great moments, music, great hockey, and I think that’s what its first and foremost purpose is. To become a home for all the citizens of the valley to come and celebrate that that we have in common.”

The arena is projected to be roughly two stories high at ground level and about two and a half floors underground. This will keep from obstructing the mountain views residents have fought tooth and nail to preserve. The entrance will face the southwest corner of Amado Road and North Called Encilia.

Live Nation, one of the country’s premier events promoters and venue operators, is set to come bring top tier musical acts. As well as hockey, basketball and concerts, the Oak View Group plans to bring boxing and mixed martial arts to the arena. As a note, the group is invested in the UFC, so that Coachella Valley residents may be treated to big-name fighters in the world of MMA. When asked about indoor soccer, Tim gave a swift “no”.

The AHL franchise will serve as the NHL Seattle franchise’s affiliate. There is no definite date for a mascot reveal.

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