As you may have read in the Desert Sun last week (September 16, 2020), the developer of the planned downtown Palm Springs arena has proposed to move the project out to the 10 freeway near the border of Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is no longer involved with the project.

The new location for the regional entertainment and sports arena, which will be home to a minor league hockey team, is a big win for the entire Coachella Valley. The site is a short drive from central Palm Springs, and the hockey team is still likely to be named the Palm Springs something-or-another.

Our mantra on the arena has always been: “Right size. Right location.” Either build a more modest arena in downtown Palm Springs or, if you’re going to go big, site it by the freeway so it doesn't overly stress local infrastructure, Fire and Police, and the city budget.

This situation is a reminder that economic development is not “free.” There are investments required and ongoing costs associated with facilities like this.

The proposed Palm Springs development was overly large for the location and particularly invasive to downtown. Initial and ongoing operational costs would have been substantial: traffic planning and mitigation, parking management, emergency medical services, crowd control, Police and Fire, etc., for 100 events a year in the middle of the downtown village. The city of Palm Springs is not in a position to absorb all the costs, especially given the current fiscal emergency, and the private parties (the Tribe and the developer) were not able to agree, it appears, on who was going to pay for what. The Covid crisis adds to the challenge, including the city’s budget and the Tribe’s revenue.

With the new site, which is larger, some of the development and infrastructure costs will be lower, and the parking can all be on the site. The new location is on unincorporated land in Riverside County. The county will help with public safety, so no single desert city will be overly burdened.

This is a big win for regional planning, economic development across the Valley, and common sense.

Riverside County will review the project for approval.