Arena would be good for the valley. Final edits would make it great.
Riverside County Planning Commissioners and Supervisors will soon decide whether or not to approve an 11,000-seat, $ 250 million privately funded sports and events arena on unincorporated land along the riverbank. ‘Interstate 10 near Palm Desert.
Overall, we believe this project would be a boon to the Coachella Valley – if the developers keep their promises to reduce its environmental impact and if local leaders ensure that taxpayers, especially in Palm Desert, are not. not face unanticipated costs to public safety. .
The arena would bring a variety of new entertainment offerings to the Coachella Valley for the benefit of residents and visitors. Project developers, the Oak View Group, plan to make the arena the home of an American Hockey League team, affiliated with the Seattle Kraken of the National Hockey League. Additionally, OVG plans to work with Live Nation, a huge live entertainment company, to bring performers to the site.
Because the arena would be open year round, it would help bolster the desert’s tourist economy, especially during the hot summer months. And the size of the arena means it could attract top performers who could now favor Las Vegas or Los Angeles. We also appreciate that the promoters plan to make the rink facilities available to local skating and ice hockey enthusiasts, who lost their only local rink last year when Cathedral’s Desert Ice Castle City has closed for good.
The arena’s projected economic impact is not massive, but not without consequences. Oak View Group funded a study that predicts an initial economic impact of $ 200 million and a continuing annual economic impact of $ 32 million.
For comparison, a 2017 study by the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated that the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells – which draws nearly 500,000 spectators – has a local economic impact of over 400. million dollars a year.
A 2016 study by Development Management Group, Inc of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which averages around 540,000 attendees for its pair of three-day weekend concerts, estimated that the event grossed around 600 million. dollars to the local economy.
Yet the construction would provide temporary employment to around 1,400 people. Once built, it is estimated that the arena would support an additional 420 part-time and full-time jobs – mostly rather low-paying jobs for ushers, ticket sales, concession workers and security. OVG CEO Tim Leiweke told this board he expects three-quarters of construction jobs to be unionized jobs and three-quarters of operating staff to be local.
Unlike many sports arenas in the United States, OVG does not ask for tax breaks or special obligations to complete this project. This gives it a head start, in our opinion.
Since the OVG and the Berger Foundation – which owns the land on which the arena would be built – would be fully invested of their own money in this project, this places the onus on them to ensure that it is ‘a successful business that has operated profitably for decades. come. To us, this seems to reduce the chances of the project turning into a white elephant, with taxpayers holding the sack.
The arena will also generate tax revenue for the county – which would not be possible if the project had been built on tribal land in Palm Springs, as originally proposed.
That said, OVG’s initial plans to minimize the environmental impact of this project are not reducing it – yet.
The company is currently building what it touts as the first carbon neutral arena in Seattle. However, for the Coachella Valley project, he proposed to get only 20% of the electricity from renewable sources. And he has virtually no public transportation plans to the arena.
This is unacceptable given that the air quality in the Coachella Valley is poor and worsening – thanks to smog emanating from the Los Angeles area, the rapid drying of the Salton Sea, agricultural activities. , forest fires, climate change and our own local traffic. Protecting our blue skies is not only essential for our health, it is a necessity to maintain the attractiveness of the Coachella Valley as a tourist attraction.
In a meeting with this editorial board, Leiweke admitted that the company needs to do better. He pledged to “double” solar energy, use less water and find ways to recycle more water used. He also said he would take lessons from the Seattle arena and apply them here – committing, for example, to eliminating single-use plastics in the arena in year one.
Leiweke said more detailed plans to “green” the arena would be released soon; we want the county authorities to hold OVG to this. We also hope that the county authorities can use whatever influence they can muster from the Imperial Irrigation District to make as much solar power as possible for the arena project.
Likewise, county officials have the chance to use the arena project as a catalyst for improving public transit in the region. This could mean clean buses or shuttles from local hotels. Carpooling and carpooling should be encouraged – and encouraged financially. Dare we hope that Amtrak’s proposed train from LA to Phoenix could stop nearby, perhaps in 2050?
A robust transit plan could not only reduce the impact of the arena’s air pollution, but also reduce the traffic that worries neighbors and Palm Desert officials.
We are reasonably confident that OVG’s plans to deal with the expected congestion are sufficient. If they’re not, Leiweke isn’t a dummy – he knows no one will come back to his arena multiple times if they’re stuck in a parking lot for an hour waiting to get on I-10.
Palm Desert officials fear the arena will create direct and indirect burdens of millions of dollars per year on its fire and police resources (under contract with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department). OVG disputes this. County authorities must weigh in here.
If county planners agree with OVG that, for example, a new fire station would not be needed to support the arena, the county will have to be prepared to act if its estimates are wrong once the project is built. Some of the tax revenue generated by the project could perhaps be kept in reserve to meet such needs if they arise.
Overall, we believe that the issues with this project can be resolved to the satisfaction of most people. This arena would create jobs, diversify the desert entertainment offer, generate tax revenue and be a greater use of this plot than the business park envisaged previously.
Any community can have an activity park. Few are those who have the opportunity to have a room of this caliber. Refusing an opportunity like this could give developers the impression that our valley does not accept capital projects related to economic development.
Let’s work to make the arena the best it can be – and let’s not let this opportunity slip through our fingers.