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I-Team takes a look at who’s behind the new Coachella Valley Arena

It's one of the biggest and most expensive projects the Coachella Valley has ever seen.

Construction is underway on 43-acres of unincorporated land near Palm Desert just north of the I-10 freeway next to the Classic Club Golf Course.

Renderings show what the $300-million, privately-funded arena is expected to look like once it's completed by the end of 2022.

It will include seating for about 11,000 people, two ice rinks, along with several lounge and club areas. The arena is expected to host an American League Hockey team, live music and other sporting events.

"This is the kind of development that really creates a major economic impact for all of Palm Desert and the rest of the Valley," said Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak VIew Group, the arena's developer.

Leiweke spent nearly two decades at the helm of AEG which built the $2.5 billion LA Live Complex in downtown Los Angeles.

He also oversaw AEG's global expansion, including development of the $976-million O2 Arena in London, England.

So why is he now focused on the Coachella Valley?

"The funny thing about Riverside County is it's the 13th largest metropolitan area in the United States, and it doesn't have a major arena. So it's underserved, underdeveloped," Leiweke said.

This is one of nine arenas that Oak View Group is currently building around the world, totaling about $5-billion. Even more remarkable is all this is happening during the pandemic and the company says there have been no delays.

Oak View Group's biggest project is its redevelopment of the former Key Arena in Seattle for the Kraken, the city's new NHL team.

Seattle arena

The Kraken will be part-owners of the Coachella Valley Arena which will serve as the home ice for its AHL franchise.

"Part of the reason is the majority of our owners on the Seattle Kraken own homes in the Coachella Valley during the winter time. So it's a huge point of destination back and forth, and easy to get our players back and forth," Leiweke said.

In Georgia, the Savannah Arena is on time and on budget despite the pandemic. It's home to a new hockey team as well.

Savannah arena

Savannah leaders were pleased at the topping-out ceremony last month, promising not only sports, but entertainment and aiming for big names.

The company's other projects include the $1.5 billion UBS Arena that will serve as the home of the New York Islanders hockey team. it's expected to bring in thousand of jobs.

New York arena

"This will be one of the busiest music venues in all of the world," Leiweke said of the New York arena.

Also in the works, the $338-million arena in Austin, Texas that will be home to the Texas Longhorns' basketball program and the $500-million Co-Op Live Arena in Manchester, England which when completed, will be the largest arena in the United Kingdom.

Just one arena is a big project. So how does Oak View have nine arenas under construction at the same time?

"So this is what we do. We're good at it. Our partner is Silver Lake, which is one of the largest investment funds in the world, so there's a certainty, an experience and a knowledge on how to get things done," Leiweke said.

Leiweke said his company will also be bidding on a variety of events for the Coachella Valley Arena.

"Because if you think about it, is there a better place to come than the Coachella Valley during the winter time? So NCAA events and tournaments, youth hockey tournaments, there's no reason we can't do either Lakers or Clippers training camp in Coachella Valley and I think they want that if they had a facility like the arena," Leiweke said.

But how does he think the arena will end up benefiting the valley in the long run?

"The economic impact of this private investment is literally two-and-a-half billion dollars to the Valley, and we didn't ask for a penny from the taxpayers," Leiweke said.

If all goes according to plan, Leiweke hopes to officially break ground on the Coachella Valley Arena later this month with its first event happening in October 2022.

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Peter Daut

KESQ News Team

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