The Acrisure Arena will be the desert’s next big thing

The Coachella Valley’s first multi-purpose arena is opening soon and it’s already booked full of exciting events to come.

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Photo Courtesy of Oak View Group/Acrisure Arena. The exterior of the arena, which will open in late December.

Across the 1-10 freeway, in the usually quiet community of Thousand Palms, the Oak View Group is not only preparing for the homecoming of the newly found Coachella Valley Firebirds on Dec. 18 but also cutting the ribbon to the newest and biggest multi-purpose venue the Coachella Valley has ever known on Dec. 14, welcoming Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle as their first guests. Back in October, I discussed the Arena’s upcoming plans with the Vice President of the Oak View Group, John Bolton, to gather insight into why they chose the Coachella Valley to how College of the Desert students can get involved in local events. To summarize it all: the grounds of Acrisure Arena have already been laid down, but on opening day, it will hit the ground running.

Holly Hinman: The Firebirds’ major league team, the Seattle Kraken, sought to expand in the developing desert. Did the Pacific Northwest snowbirds contribute heavily to that decision, among other factors? 

John Bolton: Palm Springs, a destination market for snowbirds and many other tourists looking to find warmer temperatures during the winter, made a lot of sense in terms of this being a hub for the Kraken’s feeder team. A dedicated population lives here throughout the year, and there’s an influx of part-time residents, all of whom are interested in actively participating in a new sports & entertainment product. In addition, our ownership group looked at the ease of travel for fans. This market offers opportunities for short, quick flights to our market from various locations, including other division team markets (AZ, NV, CO, CA, Calgary, etc.)

HH: Hockey season traditionally runs from October to April, so how is the Arena planning to use its amenities off-season?

 JB: Off-season and between games, the CV Firebirds’ practice ice will be transformed into the Berger Foundation Iceplex. We’re all referring to this as the coolest place in the desert. It truly will be; locals and visitors can enjoy daily public skating, adult and junior hockey leagues, figure skating classes, birthday parties, and so much more. The Iceplex opens this December as part of our Grand Opening Celebration.  

HH: What events would be considered the most family-centered?

JB: We will present a variety of shows perfect for families, including Sesame Street, Globetrotters, and Professional Bull Riders. And our Iceplex will be offering activities for families year-round.  

HH: If fans couldn’t attend a game, what other opportunities or activities could they participate in?

JB: Fans can take in all the action by joining us for a fun series of watch parties at local movie theaters and restaurants, and home games will be televised by our media partner, KESQ News Channel 3. Plus, families can join our Adult or Junior Hockey Leagues and skate where the Firebirds practice!

HH: The success and international fanfare of festivals like Coachella and Stagecoach often fuel the valley’s popularity nowadays; it’s San Diego Comic-Con for music lovers. Since the Acrisure Arena won’t host music festivals, though it is a concert venue in the making, how will the Arena choose to advertise to music lovers outside of the desert? 

JB: Over 14 million visitors travel to Greater Palm Springs annually, making it one of the world’s top resort destinations. The Arena gives those visitors a reason to travel to the desert year-round, and we’re excited to share the incredible array of shows and games with them every chance we can.  

Acrisure Arena hopes to also be a music festival destination, surrounded by nearly 400 acres of undeveloped land.  

HH: As of November, Acrisure Arena has announced over a dozen shows, including Eagles, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, Maroon 5, Journey and Toto, Paramore, Shania Twain, and more. Do you believe the accumulated audience at these shows will determine which artists’ books shows here in the future? Or do you think that with the Arena’s 11,000+ seating, booking agents will find the Arena the best alternative venue outside of Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Diego?

JB: I think a combination of factors will help us continue to bring world-class entertainment to Greater Palm Springs, but more than anything, the desert itself is the draw. Where else do you have the world’s best golf courses, tennis courts, stunning resort hotels, and spectacular mountain views? This is where I would want to see a show. It’s part of an unforgettable getaway and experience.

HH: How do you think the Arena will economically affect the Coachella Valley?

JB: [Throughout] constructing the Arena, we’ve seen the creation of 1,400 jobs and the generation of more than $200 million to Riverside County. After we open in December,  we’re projecting annual direct spending of $108 million; total business sales of $141 million annually; a total of $42 million in additional income earned by local workers; nearly 1,600 jobs supported each year, including full-time and part-time employment, on-site and off-site; and state and local tax revenues resulting from the additional economic activity totaling $11.0 millionSo, we’re making an impact!

HH: How can College of the Desert students get involved during hockey season and on a year-round basis?

JB: We encourage our College of the Desert students to be involved with our community pillars and programs, including health, which focuses on extinguishing bullying and a new partnership with FIND Food Bank; Recreation, which focuses on our incredible Firebirds Street Hockey team, and our educational ‘Stick to Reading’ Program in Coachella Valley schools. We hope many students become regular ticket buyers and enjoy all the great concerts, hockey, and other events [we offer.]

HH: Finally, it’s opening night in December. As a massively successful organization, customer interest aside, what would be the most fulfilling part of opening night?

JB: There’s nothing like seeing a long-awaited dream become a reality.