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New Palm Springs arena sparks traffic, parking concerns

A minor league hockey team will soon call downtown Palm Springs home, the American Hockey League announced Monday morning.

The league’s Board of Governors said an expansion franchise to the NHL Seattle team will play at a brand new 10,000-seat arena built by the tribe in the parking lot adjacent to the Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs.

“This 10,000 seat arena will not only be home to the new American Hockey League team. It’s going to be at the heart and center of the Coachella Valley,” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group, the company backing Seattle’s new NHL team.

The $250 million project includes the arena, a practice facility, locker rooms, and support facilities. Officials expect to break ground next year, with the hope of the AHL team playing in fall of 2021.

Officials are touting the new arena as not just a hockey stadium, but a cultural hub for music and entertainment.

“We will ultimately be driven by world-class bands, musicians coming to this great community similar to what you experience with Coachella and Stagecoach,” Leiweke said.

Some residents expressed their excitement.

“It brings more tourism here,” said Wesley Cole, a Palm Springs resident. “It’s just exciting to have something else to do with the concerts and the hockey.”

Others are concerned about the traffic and parking in a usually quiet part of town.

Palm Springs City Council member J.R. Roberts said he has serious concerns about the thousands of people and cars the arena would draw.

“We have already a lot of pressure on our streets and on our parking lots, so we need to think bigger than we might normally think,” Roberts said.

Roberts pressed the developer for specifics on their traffic and parking plan at during today’s press conference.

“We will forge a parking plan and a transportation plan that will minimize the impact on the community. We’re doing it because we want to be great neighbors,” Leiweke said.

Officials said they are counting on 20-percent of the crowds to use ride-sharing services or walk to the arena. There are no plans to build new parking garages.

“Palm Springs was never designed for something like this,” Roberts said. “We’re not ready for this type of intensity. Looks like we’re going to get ready but it’s going to take a lot of creativity in a lot of work.”​​​​​​

You can reach Jake on Twitter, Facebook or email him at jake.ingrassia@kesq.com.

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