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Future AHL franchise embracing local community, excited for opportunity

The Coachella Valley will soon be able to call a professional sports team their own.

The American Hockey League (AHL) is coming to the desert, scheduled to drop the puck for its inaugural season in 2022-2023.

This team, which does not have a name yet, will be the affiliate to NHL's Seattle Kraken. The Kraken, the league's newest expansion team, is making their debut in 2021.

The AHL team will have a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 10,000-seat arena located in Palm Desert off the I-10 freeway at Cook Street. The Oak View Group, the organization who owns the franchise, is leasing the land from the Berger Foundation.

Groundbreaking for this arena is Spring/Summer of 2021 with completion expected by Fall/Winter of 2022. The arena was originally going to be in downtown Palm Springs but that plan ultimately never finalized.

With news of the new arena location, Sports Director Blake Arthur reached out to AHL team president Nick Forro for a sit-down Zoom interview.

What is the AHL? For those not familiar with the league and its importance in the sport of hockey.

"The American Hockey League club's really important to have great synergy both on and off the ice. What a lot of people don't know is roughly 85 percent of the NHL players, they played in this league (AHL). So that development from this league to NHL is super crucial" said Forro.

Forro expressed excitement for hockey in the valley but also great optimism for the opportunities and potential growth in the local community.

"While hockey's the hero we're looking at 125 total events per year," said Forro.

How nice is this arena really going to be?

"It's not your run-of-the-mill arena. It's going to be amazing. There's a lot of factors there but it's going to be quite a ride and quite a journey to be in this community and to be working on," said Forro.

What's the atmosphere going to be like for hockey games?

"We want this to be, you know, the most packed AHL arena in the league," said Forro.

But seriously, what about the team name? We all want to know. What's it going to be?

Forro said it's the most asked question he's been getting since news of the Coachella Valley getting an AHL team. He also said that while there is no answer yet, he expects the team to announce something in the early part of 2021.

"We really want to make sure that we have a brand that people in the valley can look at and be proud of. When they put on that sweater and come to a game, we want to really make sure that they know this is their team."

Stay with KESQ News Channel 3 for the latest on this story as it continues to develop.

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Blake Arthur

Sports Director Blake Arthur joined the KESQ/CBS Local 2 team in August of 2015. Learn more about Blake here.

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