When the Oak View Group recently broke ground on the new, $300-million privately-funded arena, it did so on land owned by the Berger Foundation. The private, non-profit foundation decided to lease the 43-acre-site to Oak View Group after the company's partnership with the Agua Caliente tribe to build an arena in downtown palm springs dissolved.
"We would not be here today, I can honestly tell you this, if it wasn't for the Berger Foundation," said Tim Lieweke, CEO of Oak View Group.
I-Team investigator Peter Daut spoke with the Berger Foundation's president and chairman of the board, Chris McGuire, to get more details.
Peter, "Tell us how this agreement with the Oak View Group came about. Who approached who and when?"
"They knew about us, we knew about them. and they knew we had a piece of land, and it had already been zoned and planned, we began talking," McGuire said.
Peter, "So, basically they came to you after the deal with the tribe fell through?"
"Correct. right," McGuire responded. "We are just the landlords and it's a lease. we are not a partner of the operation of the arena whatsoever."
Peter asked, "How does a private, non-profit foundation come into an agreement with a for-profit arena?"
"It's a lease and it provides us passive income. as a private foundation, we have a corpus of money. Mr. Berger made his money in real estate. all of us that are on the executive committee have been in real estate and construction. that's our forte. we're not investment bankers," McGuire responded. "And what we do is we try to take our money, invest it where we get a return, and that return enables us to one, grow our foundation and allows us to have funds to pay out grants and charitable expenses without depleting our pocketbook."
At the recent groundbreaking event, Riverside County Supervisor Manuel Perez also revealed this.
"I guess now we're proud owners or something of the sort of a new firetruck," Perez said.
"Who is donating the fire truck to riverside county, and how did that contribution come to be?," Peter asked McGuire.
"CalFire, which is the agency out here, they wanted to be assured that everything was okay with the arena," McGuire said. "They, as part of their eventual planning and approval process, strongly hinted that a fire truck would be nice. and we volunteered to make a donation on behalf of oak view group, and ourselves, and the community, because it's hard to believe that a firetruck costs over $1.5 million."
Peter then asked, "How does the arena partnership benefit the Coachella Valley?"
"We've given away over $650 million in the Coachella Valley in the time we've been here, so one that helps the community and secondly, by bringing such an interesting and exciting venue to the valley, it's going to help not only hockey fans, but music and ice skating and club hockey, and all the other things. so therefore, we hope it will benefit all of the Coachella Valley," McGuire said.
The Berger Foundation also hopes to lease additional land near the arena to hotels and businesses. The arena is expected to open in the fall of 2022.