American Hockey League

Officials break ground at Coachella Valley arena

After 24 months of anticipation and discussion, shovels went into the ground Wednesday to begin construction on a $250 million, 300,000-square foot arena on unincorporated land near Palm Desert that is expected to attract professional sports and star entertainment.

It was first rumored that the Palm Springs area could be the home of a new American Hockey League team in May 2019. One month later, Oak View Group, a Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment company, announced a partnership with Live Nation to build an arena for sports and concerts in the Coachella Valley.

Since then, a partnership with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and plans for a downtown Palm Springs arena have fallen through, and a global pandemic has caused delays. A 2020 groundbreaking was postponed and the site was later moved.

Through it all, though, OVG has remained steadfast in its plans to bring a new entertainment arena to the valley. A massive step toward realizing that vision came with Wednesday’s groundbreaking at Classic Club golf course.

More than 100 people attended the ceremony, including Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of OVG and music mogul Irving Azoff, a founding partner of OVG. Paul Tollett, the president and chief executive of Goldenvoice, philanthropist Harold Matzner, former Palm Springs mayor Robert Moon, Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Joe Walsh of the Eagles also were in attendance. 

“I truly feel that at this point what the Coachella Valley needs is a world-class venue,” Walsh said. “It’s time.

“It’s like the baseball movie — ‘If you build it, they will come.’ And we will come.”

Walsh added that he guarantees the Eagles will play on opening night of the arena and the gathered crowd erupted with applause. 

The privately funded arena will cost around $250 million, with another $40-50 million put into parking, land development and other exterior construction. The arena, slated to be completed by October 2022, will be built adjacent to Classic Club, on 43.35 acres of land leased from the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation, a partner in the project.

More: Timeline: Coachella Valley arena, from initial rumors to groundbreaking

More: Oak View Group wants major artists, live music to be a staple at Coachella Valley’s forthcoming $250 million arena

The foundation owns the land and had the golf course, designed by Arnold Palmer, built in 2006. It has waited for the right project to come along to use the land next to the golf course. Doug Vance of the Berger Foundation said Wednesday that the foundation entertained more than two dozen development offers over the years, “but no one had what these people offered, and one of those very important things is money.”

The partnership came together after OVG inquired about the land when a deal fell apart to have the arena built on tribal land in downtown Palm Springs.

The arena, which is being called Coachella Valley Arena until a sponsor is secured, will seat 9,918 for hockey and 10,815 for basketball and other sporting events. It will have a capacity of 11,679 for concerts, according to available design specs. The lower bowl of the venue will seat close to 8,000.

The arena also will include 20 suites, a private club that can hold 145, a pair of VIP clubs and a premium concourse club that seats 590.

It is anticipated that the venue will host more than 150 events a years and have a total annual economic impact of around $141 million, with $108 million in visitor spending each year to help support close to 1,600 part-time and full-time jobs, according to an independent economic impact study released by the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“This is going to be a year-round destination,” said Scott White, the president and chief executive officer of the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau. “And it starts with this arena.”

Leiweke has a history of building successful venues for sports and entertainment, going back to his nearly two decades at the helm of AEG. While there, AEG built the $2.5 billion LA Live Complex in downtown Los Angeles, in addition to other major sports and entertainment facilities.

With OVG, Leiweke is still going big with the company’s projects, and he and music mogul Azoff, a partner in the company, expect all of the venues to attract big-name entertainers. 

OVG plans to host professional hockey, boxing, UFC, NCAA Tournament games, NBA and NHL training camps and pre-season games, in addition to recording artists that will sell out the arena. The Eagles were expected to be one of the musical acts, even before Walsh made his proclamation. Azoff has said that the band, which he has managed since the 1970s, will be a headline at the arena once it opens.

“We have a track record and a passion to bring the best in live entertainment to this arena,” Leiweke said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

From major recording artists to Oscar-winning actors, OVG has a knack for attracting stars. It has been adamant that it will do just that when it opens its new arena in the Coachella Valley, which is one of eight venues OVG is building around the globe at a price of close to $5 billion — spent as development around the world has slowed due to the pandemic.

Among the projects the company has in the works is the Moody Center, a 15,000-seat arena under construction in Austin, Texas, where the University of Texas men’s and women’s basketball programs will play. Actor and Longhorns’ superfan Matthew McConaughey is a partner in the $338 million project. OVG is planning to open the arena on April 18, 2022 with a concert headlined by The Weeknd.

OVG is also in the final stages of a $950 million rebuild of Key Arena in downtown Seattle. It will be called Climate Pledge Arena and will be the home of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, the franchise that will have its AHL affiliate play in the Coachella Valley.

The company is also building a minor league hockey and entertainment arena in Savannah, Georgia, and is nearing the completion of UBS Arena on Long Island, New York, adjacent to Belmont Park. The arena has cost $1.5 billion to build and will be the new home of the New York Islanders of the NHL. The Weeknd already has a concert booked at the venue.

Another OVG project is the $500 million, 23,500-seat Co-Op Live Arena in Manchester, England. Recording artist Harry Styles is a partner in the project, nearing construction in his hometown. The arena, which will be the largest arena in the United Kingdom, is scheduled to open in September 2023.

The Coachella Valley is not New York, Seattle or Austin or even Manchester. It is, however, within Riverside County — the 13th-largest metro area, in terms of population, in the United States — and had been void of a major indoor arena.

“The valley deserves it,” Azoff said. “It’s earned it.” 

Andrew John is a reporter for The Desert Sun and the USA TODAY Network. Find him on Twitter: @Andrew_L_John. Email him at

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