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A Piece of the Pie

A world on edge presents a paradise from which to work, connect, stay healthy, and live a whole lotta life.

Game On!

The desert’s high season coincides with the hockey season.
MODEL PHOTOGRAPHY BY LANCE GERBER

One year from now, if the schedule holds, the new Coachella Valley Arena will propel the local concert and event calendar closer to big-city heights — and lay the ice for the desert’s first-ever pro sports franchise.

Set across more than 43 acres of unincorporated land adjacent to the Arnold Palmer-designed golf course at the Classic Club in Palm Desert, the privately funded, $250 million arena will be home to a yet-to-be-named American Hockey League franchise, which will play about 40 home games a year beginning in November 2022. The team will be the minor league affiliate of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken.

The arena, designed by Kansas City-based Populous, architect of sporting venues ranging from Yankee Stadium in New York to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, has an A-list of backers, including Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment titan Oak View Group and global music, concert, and event promoter Live Nation.

It’s a welcome development for Visit Greater Palm Springs, which promotes the region for business and leisure tourism. In destination marketing, says Scott White, the agency’s president and CEO, “you have to be either constantly improving the attractions you have or adding to the menu of what people can do while they’re here.”

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Promising to host roughly 160 events a year — concerts, hockey games, boxing matches, and possibly preseason NBA and NHL games — the arena appears primed to impact a desert economy on the rebound from the pandemic. In late May, a Visit Greater Palm Springs-commissioned economic impact study projected that the arena would generate $141 million annually, while creating about 1,600 full- and part-time local jobs on and off the site.

While the Coachella Valley has established itself as a concert destination by virtue of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, a pro hockey team adds an exciting new entrée for visitors and locals.

“From a tourism perspective, our story now broadens,” White says. “The hockey season aligns greatly with our winter visitors coming from the Midwest, [Pacific] Northwest, and Canada.”

From the team’s purview, a fresh franchise in a new arena is ripe with potential.

“It is an opportunity to be able to build something from the ground up,” says Troy Bodie, director of hockey and business operations for Palm Springs AHL. “For people to rally around the club as a first-to-market sports team, something to call their own. It’s a chance to be the big event in town, to really engage the whole Coachella Valley.”

Bodie, a veteran winger who played in 159 NHL games and almost 400 AHL games, with stints in San Antonio, Texas, and Stockton, California, has an informed perspective on sports in small cities.

“What I’ve learned from playing in these non-traditional markets is that there is a demographic of fans out there that maybe doesn’t know hockey that well, and getting them educated on the game, yeah, it might take a little time,” Bodie says. “In the Coachella Valley, I think we’ll have a unique fan base with a lot of snowbirds, along with a lot of people who may have never been to a hockey game. I don’t see it as a challenge; I see it as an opportunity.”

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The arena amenities include VIP clubs.
Becoming a familiar, visible presence across the community appears paramount, especially connecting with the Coachella Valley’s 70 percent Latino population.
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It’s hardly an insurmountable feat. Since the Los Angeles Kings’ 1988 trade for Wayne Gretzky, the Southland, if not the entire Southwest, has shown continued interest the game, even in cities and regions that were once considered non-traditional skating locales.

In the decades since acquiring The Great One, the Kings have refined a model for farming new hockey fans and reaching out to the Latino community. In addition to Spanish-language broadcasts of games, the team’s broad outreach — which includes sponsoring street hockey leagues in L.A. and coordinating ball hockey programs in dozens of YMCAs in the city — has resulted in nearly a quarter of its ticket buyers coming from a Latino background, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In addition to the main ice for the hockey team, the Coachella Valley Arena sports a second, all-purpose rink for community use.

“With the Desert Ice Castle shutting down during the pandemic, that fueled the passions for bringing in this community ice aspect,” Bodie says, referring to what was the Coachella Valley’s only ice rink. “I feel like there’s a duty to the community to not just bring in events and concerts, but to bring something that provides opportunity for everybody. The community rink can do this in several ways, including youth hockey programs, public skating, and figure skating. Outside of building this [hockey] club, the part of this I’m most excited about is seeing what we can do with this community ice.”

For the desert’s hockey venture to score big, the team may take a page from its soon-to-be nearest rival, the Ontario Reign, the AHL affiliate of the Kings since 2015. Preceded by a squad of the same name in the East Coast Hockey League (one level lower than the AHL), Ontario welcomed pro hockey in 2008 to the Toyota Arena.

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Music lovers land a year-round concert venue.

“From the get-go, the team did a great job of getting people excited about pro hockey,” says Sue Oxarart, director of marketing and communications for the Greater Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau, which also manages Toyota Arena. “They immediately ingrained the team in the community.”

For Oxarart, who worked for the arena while it was being constructed, the team’s biggest score came before the first puck dropped. “The team partnered with local nonprofits, began their own nonprofit, and started going out to youth sporting events and letting people know about the debut,” she says.

With 300 event dates a year, Toyota Arena — also home of the Ontario Fury pro indoor soccer team and the Agua Caliente Clippers, minor league affiliate of the NBA’s L.A. Clippers — draws from the 4.3 million residents of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

The Reign’s fan base is considered provincial, with most ticket buyers driving between 25 to 50 miles to attend games.

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The arena could create 1,600 jobs and pump $141 million a year into the economy, a study suggests.

From 2019 to pre-pandemic ’20, the AHL’s 31 teams’ average attendance per game was a little more than 5,500. The Reign draws about 8,200 fans per home game.

“I tell other teams that call our arena home to do exactly what the Reign has done,” says Michael Krouse, president and CEO of the Greater Ontario CVB.

“They are a well-oiled machine. I haven’t seen a team in the league that has done it as well as they have, and we’ve benefited greatly from the relationship. They’re part of our community, part of our family.”

Debuting in the AHL a year after the Reign, the Tucson Roadrunners, based in another non-traditional hockey market, has also seen a local vibe created by way of ice.

“Hockey brings an energy to our downtown on game nights,” says Dan Gibson, senior director of communications for Visit Tucson. “There are people all around in hockey jerseys, and it was visible from the start. On a surface level, there are more hockey fans than I think anybody realized.”

The Roadrunners, a minor league affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, akin to the Reign, have gained interest and support through boots-on-the-ground relationship building. “The team has connected to the entire community,” Gibson says. “Before games, the mascot is around town. They’ve held lots of events to drum up season ticket sales, and for the first few years, they were giving away tickets left and right. As we’re not a place with ice skating rinks all over, they’ve connected with the youth market by building street hockey rinks.”

The Roadrunners have further scored via demographic diversity, as half of Tucson’s population is Latino. “[The team has] done a very good job of reaching out to the Hispanic community,” Gibson says. “They created an alternate jersey, which is directly intended to market to our Hispanic community; they’ll have a Tejano band in front of the arena before games, and they’ll play Hispanic music during the games. They’ve done a lot of outreach to schools that are predominantly Hispanic.”

Likewise, the Henderson Silver Knights, located 20 miles from its parent team, the Vegas Golden Knights, made its debut in the 2020-21 season. Henderson quickly embraced the new hockey culture following the instant success of Vegas, which reached the Stanley Cup Finals in its inaugural season in 2017-18.

The Golden Knights’ two-rink facility in nearby Summerlin created immediate demand for all levels of skating and ice hockey across Southern Nevada. In short time, the city of Henderson and Vegas ownership partnered to revamp an existing downtown Henderson structure into Lifeguard Arena, a two-rink Silver Knights/community locale that opened in November 2020.

“When the Summerlin rinks reached a critical mass,” says Robert Herr, assistant city manager and chief infrastructure officer for city of Henderson, “we entered discussions with them about our interest in seeing rinks on our east side of town.”

The Vegas success trickles down on Henderson. “The team wanted to have an impact on the coaching and training aspects, so through their programs, it’s been everything from Learn to Skate to open skating all the way up to our Henderson Junior Knights team,” Herr says.

Creating a new sporting tapestry in the Coachella Valley may skate with surprising alacrity. “I recall one of our council members recently diving home and telling me that he saw the neighborhood kids all out in parks with sticks and a net and their street hockey gear,” Herr says. “It’s something you never would have guessed to see out here.”

DESIGNING THE NEW ARENA

Eighteen months of construction will yield the state-of-the-art Coachella Valley Arena with two rinks — one for the AHL franchise and the other for community use.

With almost 10,000 seats for hockey and 11,500 seats for concerts, the arena will also include 20 suites, two VIP clubs, and a private club that can accommodates 150 people.

Design firm Populous did its homework in creating a design aesthetic for the desert arena. “We spent a lot of time studying the area in the early stages of the project, looking at local architecture and understanding the colors, the materials, the forms, the vernacular,” says Scott McCracken, architect and associate at Populous. “When you look at this building, you think of Palm Springs, of desert architecture.”

An inside-outside homage to desert living will be immediately evident on entry.

“Being outdoors is, of course, a big part of the valley’s culture,” says Bridget Schmidt, architect and senior associate at Populous. “So, the main concourse is actually outdoors. We’ve found ways to integrate and engage that atmosphere of the desert.”

Arena interiors will honor the area’s Native American heritage and scene-shaping modern architecture.

“We all know that Palm Springs is known for midcentury design, so that was a fun thing to explore,” McCracken says. “Those elements show up on the interior finishes, where we play with pattern and color. The center-ice bars, east and west, are themed around a pool party.”

• READ NEXT: What is the Future of Downtown Palm Springs. We Ask the Key Players.

After a two-year hiatus, the Indian Wells tennis tournament returns with a different feel

 

The Indian Wells Tennis Garden at sunset during the 2018 BNP Paribas Open.

The sun sets at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden during the 2018 BNP Paribas Open. After a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BNP Paribas Open returns on Monday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

BILL DWYRE

 

The BNP Paribas tennis tournament, like so many things in sports lost to the need for COVID-19-precautions, will have an event for the first time in 19 months, starting this week.

The prestigious event at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden canceled its March event in both 2020 and 2021 and successfully and controversially negotiated to move to October so it wouldn’t lose two full years. The October dates partially conflicted with the Shanghai Masters and smaller tournaments in Asia and Europe, but the governing bodies of tennis eventually decided to allow Indian Wells to go ahead Oct. 6-17. Shanghai eventually canceled its Masters 1,000-level event, citing pandemic concerns.

There is a coincidental element at play. In early 2000, when the Indian Wells tournament was struggling financially, Shanghai pushed to purchase it and move it and its dates to China. Tournament founders Charlie Pasarell and Raymond Moore found new investors in the eleventh hour, retained the event for the desert and turned it into one considered the fifth major in the sport.

Daniil Medvedev, of Russia, reacts after defeating Novak Djokovic, of Serbia.

Tournament qualifying will be held Monday and Tuesday, followed by the start of the women’s main draw Wednesday and men’s main draw Thursday.

This 2021 event, while still one of the biggest stops on the pro tours, will have a different feel on several fronts. The men’s star attractions for years — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, each of whom has won 20 major tournaments — will be absent. Federer and Nadal are injured and Djokovic withdrew last week. The women’s star for years, Serena Williams, is also not entered.

But the recent announcement of two wild card entries may have spiced up the field.

Andy Murray, a three-time major champion and once considered a part of the Big Four with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, has recovered from a long spell of injuries and took a wild card into the tournament. Same for crowd favorite Kim Clijsters, who won four Grand Slam events and won twice in the desert.

Andy Murray reaches to return a shot
Andy Murray returns a shot during his loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the U.S. Open on Aug. 30.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

Men’s defending champion Dominic Thiem of Austria will not return. He is still recovering from a wrist injury. But women’s 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada will play. Andreescu came out of nowhere to win at Indian Wells in 2019, then six months later stunned Serena Williams to win the U.S. Open.

Even bigger attractions may be the success stories from this year’s U.S. Open. Daniil Medvedev of Russia spoiled Djokovic’s quest for a calendar-year Grand Slam, the first since Rod Laver’s in 1969, with a stirring five-set victory in the final in New York. And newcomers Leylah Fernandez and Anna Raducanu played an inspiring U.S. Open final and charmed the packed house in Arthur Ashe Stadium with both their tennis and their post-match warmth. Raducanu became the first qualifier to win the event and Fernandez was equally unheralded coming into the Open. Both are teenagers, Fernandez from Canada and Raducana from England.

As large and prestigious as this event has become, there will be many differences from past years.

Tournament officials say they are shooting for 60% capacity attendance, which would be about 300,000 people over the 12-day event. There will be no paper tickets. Spectators will receive tickets through an app and show them on their phones at the entrances. It will also be a cashless event. All entrants must be vaccinated. No spectators under age 12 will be allowed.

There will be a chair umpire and ball kids for each match, but no line-callers, as was the case at the U.S. Open. The electronic Hawkeye cameras, long ago installed on each court at Indian Wells, will be the final word on line calls.

As a nod to potential hot October weather in the desert, there will also be an emphasis on night matches. Official night matches will be held, as usual, on Center Court and Court 1, but on seven other courts with lights, day sessions will be scheduled with later matches not starting before 6 p.m., pushing many matches on those courts well into the evening and the cooler weather.

Those who purchased tickets for the 2020 event, which was canceled one week before it was to begin, have been given three options: a full refund, the ability to apply their purchase to this October event, or the ability to do the same for the March tournament, which will return the BNP Open to its normal spot on the tennis calendar.

The Big Swing

With the latest influx of homebuyers, the desert’s country clubs have a younger look.

JUDD SPICERCURRENT PSL, HOME & DESIGN, REAL ESTATE

 

Todd Hewlin and Lo-Ping Yeh, new owners and members at The Reserve Club in Indian Wells look perfectly at ease seated on their broad patio as the breeze ripples the water in the infinity pool situated between the house and the 12th hole, framed by the dramatic Santa Rosa Mountains. The couple, who moved here from the Bay Area and run a tech consulting firm, reflects a growing demographic of desert residents that are more youthful and working from wherever they want.

Before the pandemic, country clubs were trying to appeal to younger buyers by renovating clubhouses, retooling tennis courts for pickleball, and introducing an extensive variety of programming to keep members engaged on and off the golf course. Now, it appears those investments are paying off.

Although Hewlin and Yeh first experienced the desert in earnest during the winter rainstorms of 2019, a return visit a year later gave them a different impression. “We found it incredible,” Yeh says. “So, we went back to Los Gatos and signed a contract to put our house on the market a week later. Then, the pandemic hit.”

When the Bay Area shelter-in-place order lifted in the summer, she and Hewlin hunted for their ideal concept in indoor-outdoor living. Another visit led them to a spec home still in construction.

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Lo-Ping Yeh and Todd Hewlin

“When we saw the view, it was, ‘Oh my God,’” says Yeh, who was also thinking about how the residence might accommodate their home office. “A lot of people are feeling this way now — that they can live in a place like this and still work in an effective and efficient manner.”

As they moved into The Reserve in fall 2020, their new neighbors changed the couple’s idea of who exactly lives in the desert. “When we first came here, to be honest, Todd said he thought the area might be too old for us,” she says, smiling toward her husband. (Hewlin and Yeh are 55 and 57, respectively, and active in couples golf.)

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The Vintage Club in Indian Wells

“I was completely wrong,” Hewlin replies. “Maybe I had that perception from movies or how the area has been written about by people who don’t live here. But after getting to know people at The Reserve, I started feeling like this is the valley of Benjamin Button: People get all that Vitamin D, are active, physically fit, they eat better. People come here and get younger.”

THE PANDEMIC HAS seen golf’s natural social distancing turn days of lemon into lemonade. As city dwellers look for elbow room in the Coachella Valley, the spike in the number of golf rounds being played reflects the surge in new club memberships. Americans played approximately 60 million more rounds in 2020 than they did in 2019, a 14 percent increase, according to the National Golf Foundation and Golf Datatech. Meanwhile, the nation’s private clubs reported a 19.9 percent rise in play compared to 2019.

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Andalusia Country Club in La Quinta

Desert residents only need to swivel their collared shirts to see new golf members flocking largely from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, and the Pacific Northwest.

As Palm Springs Life reported last fall, the first seven months of the pandemic saw single-family home sales in the Coachella Valley rise 56 percent over the same period a year earlier. Subsequently, end-of-year statistics from the California Desert Association of Realtors showed all of the valley’s nine cities with year-over-year increases in home sales.

“The Coachella Valley has become a haven to those who want to escape the cities and have a place where they can enjoy an outdoor lifestyle,” says Julie Bloom, senior vice president of operations for the Sunrise Company, which operates Toscana and Andalusia country clubs. “In addition, since travel is not as easy, people want to have a place to go that feels like a resort and where they can gather their families together.” With the spike in sales and memberships comes a rush of new residents and golfers. A Palm Springs Life survey of 13 luxury country clubs conducted early this year revealed uniform growth when comparing March 2019–January 2020 with the period a year later.

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Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert

In La Quinta, the 36 holes at The Hideaway Golf Club experienced a 103 percent rise in new members, with a spike from June to December 2020, fueling a record-breaking year in terms of home and membership sales. At the Tradition Golf Club, a 150 percent rise in club tours resulted in a record number of new members, and golf membership sales doubled. “Approximately 80 percent of our new member spouses are beginner golfers,” says Tesha Vann, membership director at Tradition. “Our short course is getting more use than ever, as it’s the perfect venue to learn the game.”

At nearby Rancho La Quinta, the two-course spread saw a 30 percent increase in golf memberships, with home sales jumping 60 percent, and Andalusia Country Club had an 87 percent increase in golf memberships with a jaw-dropping 300 percent increase in home sales.

In Indian Wells, The Vintage Club experienced a 145 percent increase in home sales and a 100 percent gain in new golf memberships. Toscana Country Club gained 34 percent in home sales and its 36 holes drew a 77 percent rise in golf memberships. At The Reserve, Todd Hewlin and Lo-Ping Yeh were among 24 new golf members representing a 120 percent increase in home sales.

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Mike Kirby and Sandi Marino

“The trend is more couples,” says Denise Adams, membership director at The Reserve Club. “Both the member and spouse, or significant other, play golf, as do their high school- and college-age children.”

Likewise, at Bighorn Golf Club, “We’re seeing quite a few of our current golf members’ spouses taking up the game through lessons, afternoon play as a couple, and our 9-holer group,” says Kirstin Fossey of Bighorn Properties.

In Palm Desert, the two-course Bighorn Golf Club had a 44 percent increase in new golf memberships and a 28 percent increase in home sales, while Stone Eagle Golf Club reported a 62 percent increase in memberships.

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Tradition Golf Club in La Quinta

In Rancho Mirage, the three-course spread of Mission Hills Country Club has seen an 8 percent uptick in new golf memberships and a 60 percent increase in home sales. And at Tamarisk Country Club, a 9 percent boost in golf members has contributed to a 12 percent rise in overall memberships.

“In many ways, our club has become more important in our members’ lives,” Brett Draper says of Thunderbird Country Club, where he’s general manager. During the pandemic, “activity around the club, namely golf, is up to levels we have not seen in the past 15 years.”

FOR MIKE KIRBY, the desert has always been a home away from home. Long familiar with the valley’s east end by virtue of visiting his parents at La Quinta Country Club and his siblings now in the area, Kirby always figured that, someday, he too would have a desert home.

Someday came a bit sooner than Kirby and his fiancé Sandi Marino expected.

“In the last three or four years, we’ve been thinking we should land someplace out here,” he says. “Now, working from home during COVID [has] been a catalyst for us to make the move.”

Last September, the prime-of-life couple purchased a spec house at Tradition Golf Club, the longtime West Coast base for Arnold Palmer. Kirby is an avid player, and Marino is a beginner who’s refining her game on the club’s nine-hole short course. Their home overlooks the top-handicapped hole 3 on the Palmer-designed course, carved in the bosom of the Santa Rosas. The view also includes the scene-setting stone wall and iron gate, Tradition’s original entrance, marking the end of what is now Washington Street.

Splitting time between La Quinta and Newport Beach, Kirby seamlessly runs his real estate research and analysis firm. “I can work just as well here as I can from Newport,” Kirby says. “I’m not so sure we would’ve pulled the trigger on the purchase this early, but once we had this epiphany that I could still be very effective in my job in the home office I have in our new home, we went for it.”

Marino, who mixes charity and interior design work, believes the club’s on-site marketplace for groceries and take-out and home delivery services offer comfort during the pandemic. “Tradition is low-key and genuine,” she says. “And the amenities are amazing; the club makes it easy to stay.”

Therein lies the prevailing appeal of the Coachella Valley. The weather and lifestyle sell the location, and the ability to work from anywhere seals the deal.

PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHS BY TRACY NGUYEN

Alex Proba’s Graphic Swimming Pools are a Celebration of Color and Pattern

Alex Proba’s Graphic Swimming Pools are a Celebration of Color and Pattern

Hand Painted Pools

Courtesy of Palm Springs Life: Jane Englefield

Designer Alex Proba hand-paints swimming pools with graphic murals, including the pools of two Palm Springs houses and a mural on the deck of a public pool on Manhattan's Roosevelt Island.

These three designs showcase Proba's signature shapes and playful use of colour. One painted pool belongs to Marrow House, a private residence in Rancho Mirage in California.

The hand-painted swimming pool at Marrow House by Alex Proba
Top and above: the painted pool at Marrow House

The Rancho Mirage pool's design is an explosion of colourful curving shapes to contrast the geometrical mid-century house designed by American architect Donald Wexler, and the angular shape of the pool itself.

At the shallow end, oversized chartreuse-coloured petal-like shapes twist towards a large pink and orange orb tumbling down the pool's steps.

Painted details of the Marrow House pool by Alex Proba
The Marrow House pool's decorated steps

The deep end is painted in peaceful turquoise shades which are offset by a pronged pink shape that takes cues from Atomic Age signage.

Discussing her various choices of colour and shapes, Proba said, "it's trial and error. Most of the time it is a natural inclination for me to choose one colour or pattern over another and I do not overthink it."

Proba's painted Palm Springs pool blends with its setting
Hill House's curved pool

Another painted pool by Proba is at Hill House, an Airbnb in Palm Springs, with a curved pool that perfectly compliments Proba's style.

"The shape of the pool is organic and it blends well with my work. I just tried to connect all of the aspects together," Proba told Dezeen.

The Hill House pool blends with its setting
Organic shapes twist around Hill House's pool

The curved pool is decorated in bright pinks and oranges, painted on top of each other to form a cluster of colour alongside blue and purple plant-like shapes.

Some shapes have a single hue, while others are intricately decorated with delicate speckles. Thin black lines snake across the colourful shapes, adding subtle detail to the bold designs.

Plain coloured and speckled graphic shapes decorate Alex Proba's Hill House pool in Palm Springs
Details of Hill House's vividly painted pool

Painting the outdoor pools can be a gruelling process, said Proba.

"You are mostly in a weird position, hunched down. My knees were hurting," she said. "Palm Springs tends to get very hot too, so sometimes our paint trays melted."

The Manhattan pool's graphic mural by Alex Proba
Proba's mural on the deck of a Roosevelt Island pool in Manhattan

For Roosevelt Island in Manhattan, Proba painted a vivid mural on the deck of a public pool for a project curated by K&CO and Pliskin Architecture.

A kaleidoscope-like mural of contrasting colours, Proba described her Manhattan mural as "a shape party."

Alex Proba's hand-painted graphic mural in Manhattan
Proba's colourful mural transforms the public pool's deck

The public pool's unique design also offers a playful solution to wayfinding. Visitors can plan to meet each other at a splash of turquoise, or in the middle of a speckled blob.

Painted during 2020, the mural also intends to be celebratory and hopeful during the midst of a global pandemic.

The hand-painted Alex Proba swimming pool mural in Manhattan
The Manhattan pool's unique shapes act as wayfinding devices

While each of Proba's pool designs is unique, all three projects are led by her instinctive desire to create dynamic visuals.

"I trust my gut, and 99 percent of the time I go with my first pattern or colour. The times when I question myself and go back and change them is when the design actually fails."

Alex Proba swimming pools
Water catches the sunlight at Hill House

Designers everywhere are celebrating the potential of swimming pools in public and private spaces alike. In Stockholm, Folkform has installed a glass and ceramic muralwith over 1,000 individual pieces in an indoor public swimming pool. Lost House, a property in London by David Adjaye, has a bedroom with its own pool on a plinth.

Founded in 2013, Studio Proba is a New York-based multidisciplinary design studio led by Alex Proba.

Photography is by Madeline Tolle and Max Touhey.

Some of the Desert’s Most Anticipated New Developments are on Schedule

Some of the Desert’s Most Anticipated New Developments are on Schedule

Some Optimism

Courtesy of Palm Springs Life: Bradley James

It’s not all bad. Amid the pandemic, while businesses and events adapt (or shutter) to avoid contributing to the spread of the novel coronavirus, local leaders insist we have plenty of room for optimism. A look around the Coachella Valley confirms many exciting, job-creating developments — from expanded college campuses to water-themed housing communities to destination attractions — still hold promise for the region. Palm Springs Life asked city officials, educators, developers, and tribal leaders about the status and impacts of the valley’s most anticipated projects.

GRAND OASIS CRYSTAL LAGOON
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The first phase of this expansive desert oasis in Rancho Mirage is still expected to debut within the next couple of years.

Planned on 618 acres of barren land bordered by Gerald Ford Drive to the north, Monterey Avenue to the east, Frank Sinatra Drive to the south, and Bob Hope Drive to the west, the development plan calls for luxury hotels, a resort, a variety of housing, parks, retail, restaurants, and a network of walking and biking trails — all situated around a sandy beach and a swimmable crystal blue lagoon.

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The city and DMB Development say the first phase, which includes the creation of the lagoon and surrounding homes, remains on schedule for a 2022–2023 opening but has not announced a timeline for the remaining phases, which include the hotels and retail outlet.

Once fully developed, the project will provide more than 1,000 full-time jobs and generate at least $10 million in annual revenues. Rancho Mirage Mayor G. Dana Hobart says the Grand Oasis will provide an alternative to traditional golf course developments. “This will extend the typical tourist season by several months,” he says, “offering recreational opportunities to a large array of users and attracting visitors from all over the globe.”

AGUA CALIENTE CULTURAL PLAZA
aguacalienteculturalplaza

The banners hanging at the future home of the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza in downtown Palm Springs read “2020 Vision” — a reminder of the optimism surrounding the project before the pandemic stopped construction and derailed this year’s grand opening. Located at the corner of Tahquitz Canyon Way and Indian Canyon Drive, the plaza features two attractions — The Spa at Séc-he and the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum — separated by the Oasis Trail, a place of reflection mimicking the elements of the nearby Indian Canyons.

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“Each federally recognized tribe throughout this country has a distinct culture that includes traditions, language, historic clothing and housing styles, as well as historical food and medicine preparations,” says tribal chairman Jeff L. Grubbe. “We want to share that with others, as well as acknowledge the fact that we are alive and well today living in the modern world.”

Though tribal leaders are mum about construction details and timelines, the plaza will become the second-largest Native American cultural center in the nation. The 48,000 square-foot will feature a mixture of artifacts dating back thousands of years with state-of-the-art interactive exhibits. The 40,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art spa will feature the signature “taking of the waters” experience, and a menu of innovative treatments.

CORAL MOUNTAIN
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Who says there’s no surf in the Coachella Valley? The wait for the perfect wave is almost over as developers appear on course to bring the largest, rideable open-barrel, human-made wave in the world to the desert. As scheduled, construction of Coral Mountain, a first-of-its-kind masterplan resort community in La Quinta, will begin mid-2021. Meanwhile, the 400-acre project continues the approval process, and developers Meriwether Companies and Big Sky Wave Developments expect no delays in the construction or its completion in early 2023.

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“Based on changes brought forward by the pandemic and heightened interest in the Coachella Valley,” says Garrett Simon, a partner of Meriwether Companies, “we’re more convinced than ever by the mission and vision of Coral Mountain.”

Located in the shadow of Coral Mountain, the $200 million sports and wellness resort includes a 150-room luxury hotel and up to 600 private residences.

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The biggest lure for visitors will be the waves created by Kelly Slater Wave Company technology. Homeowners, hotel guests, and members will have exclusive access to the 18-million-gallon wave basin that will pump out waves that roll for more than 700 yards and offer almost one-minute rides.

COLLEGE OF THE DESERT
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For more than four years, momentum has been building for an expansion of College of the Desert’s Indio campus off Oasis Street. The $56 million project calls for a new three-story classroom building with an adjacent plaza and outdoor pavilion. COD officials still expect construction to begin in 2021, more than doubling its campus capacity to almost 8,000 students and introducing an on-campus child development center.

While the pandemic may not delay the project, it likely will leave a fingerprint on it. John White, the college’s executive director of Bond and Facilities Planning, says the design may be tweaked for the safety of faculty and students.

CODIndio

The expansion more than doubles the capacity of COD’s Indio campus.

“COVID-19 has changed our world,” White says, “and as an institution of higher learning, we are adapting and changing along with it.”

At the same time, COD plans to build out a center for workforce innovation on approximately 27 acres at the corner of Farrell Drive and Baristo Road in Palm Springs. The project is in the early design stage.

SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT ARENA
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The $240 million sports and entertainment arena initially planned near downtown Palm Springs will be built instead north of Palm Desert in time for the 2022-23 American Hockey League season.

L.A.-based development company Oak View Group has partnered with the nonprofit H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation to build the 10,000-seat arena on roughly 43 acres at Interstate 10 and Cook Street, near the Classic Club.

The arena will be the home of the minor league affiliate for the NHL’s Seattle Kraken.

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The minor league affiliate of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken will play in the new arena.

OVG has also partnered with Live Nation Entertainment to attract other sports and entertainment events, including concerts and award shows, according to CEO Tim Leiweke. OVG’s plan to see the arena of Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians land in Palm Springs unraveled during land lease negotiations and amid concerns over traffic and parking.

CV LINK
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Plans for a 40-plus mile bike and pedestrian path that would run through the Coachella Valley are progressing better than expected. The $100 million project, which will run from Palm Springs to Coachella along the Whitewater River and Tahquitz Creek, will provide unprecedented access for biking, walking, jogging, and small electric vehicles.

The only portions completed so far are a 2.5-mile stretch from Palm Springs to Cathedral City and another 1-mile section in Palm Springs.

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But Tom Kirk, executive director of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments, the agency behind the CV Link, says construction of about 20 more miles — stretching across sections of Coachella, Indio, La Quinta, Palm Desert, and Palm Springs — should begin by the end of the year and wrap up by the in early 2022. The entire project is expected to be complete in the next three to four years.

While the pandemic has changed working conditions, requiring masks and physical distancing, Kirk said it has not anchored progress. In fact, they are building more miles than anticipated this year. “Many projects had to slam on the brakes when COVID-19 hit,” he says. “CV Link wasn’t one of them. I’d almost argue that the pandemic has accelerated the project because construction is one of the only games in town, and we are able to get a lot of focus and attention on getting this done.”

CV Link will be a boon for cyclists and runners looking for new roads to travel, potentially reducing cyclist and pedestrian injuries and fatalities, and an asset to economic activity. It will also curb car emissions and, according to one study, produce more than 3 million bicycle and pedestrian trips per year by 2035.

“We’ve seen how many individuals and families have relied on walking and biking during this pandemic,” Kirk says. “More than ever, we need projects like CV Link to make sure our communities have safe, accessible routes so they can stay active and stay healthy.”

AGUA CALIENTE CASINO CATHEDRAL CITY
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The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which has casinos in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, is confident it will hit the jackpot this fall when its third local gaming operation opens in Cathedral City.

Construction on the 13-acre casino started in November 2019, and tribal officials say it’s on schedule for a grand opening this year. This comes as welcome news for job seekers eyeing the 500 new positions the project will bring. It’s also good for Cathedral City firefighters, who will receive a new fire station across the street from the casino — the result of a $5.5 million contribution from the tribe.

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“It’s encouraging that this investment is going to be completed and opened,” says Joe Wallace, CEO of the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership. “In times like these, all progress provides hope and opportunity.”

The casino will be roughly 30,000 square feet, offering a gaming floor with more than slot machines and eight tables games. It will also include eateries, a sports bar, and a 12,000 square-foot outdoor pavilion for concerts, weddings, and other events.

The casino’s general manager, Michael Facenda, says, “The excitement for Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City continues to escalate each and every day as we prepare to open later this year.”

PALM SPRINGS DOWNTOWN PARK
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Residents and visitors looking forward to a world-class park in downtown Palm Springs have reason to celebrate. That’s because plans for a 2-acre park across from the Palm Springs Museum remain on track despite calls to reduce the scope of the project — or hit the brakes on it entirely — amid the city’s pandemic-induced budget shortfall. Part of an ambitious revitalization of the downtown area, the $8 million park is expected to include two lawn areas, palm groves, and a water feature reminiscent of the waterfall in Tahquitz Canyon.

City officials say they will lean on funds from Measure J — a sales tax approved by voters in 2011 to help revitalize downtown Palm Springs — to advance the project. City councilman Dennis Woods, one of the park’s biggest supporters, says the venue is more of a necessity than a luxury. “We need to constantly recreate in order to keep our edge as a world-class resort destination,” he says. “This park is going to be an iconic, timeless place, creating a unique sense of place that is truly Palm Springs.”

The original plan had the park opening in November, but with construction halted due to the pandemic, the new target is early 2021.

 

Margaritaville Resort To Take Over the Riviera Palm Springs

Margaritaville Resort To Take Over the Riviera Palm Springs

Get Out the Cocktail Umbrellas

It shouldn't take long to discover you’re no longer at the Riviera Palm Springs and have been transported instead to Margaritaville Resort.

Courtesy of Palm Springs Life: JIM POWERS

Maybe it will be the giant sandal you’ll see as you enter. Or the 5 O’Clock Somewhere tiki bar. But it likely won’t take very long to figure out you’re no longer at the Riviera Palm Springs and have been transported instead to Margaritaville Resort.

The introduction could happen in October as renovations currently take place while the Palm Springs hotel is closed. The property has always been identified as the Riviera dating back to its inception in 1959 when it attracted celebrities like Elvis Presley, the Rat Pack, Desi Arnaz, and Sonny and Cher Bono.

That last part may not change. The whole Margaritaville concept is part of the Jimmy Buffett empire, whose song by the same name released in 1977 became his highest-charting solo single. Look at the social media channels for the Margaritaville hotels/resorts and you’ll see the now 73-year-old Buffett making appearances.

General Manager Matt Huss says under the Margaritaville umbrella, the hotel will continue the legacy it has built up over the years.

“The Riviera is a very iconic hotel with a lot of history,” Huss says. “Historically, it’s been a great place to escape, and here at Margaritaville, we are going to continue that legacy with this new brand. And it’s going to be a place for people to celebrate, create memories, and Palm Springs is really a growing tourist destination, and I think it’s going to be perfect for this new brand.”

Huss chatted further with Palm Springs Life about the hotel and what visitors and staycationers alike can expect.

So how do you create a new identity for that property? Maybe not necessarily erasing what was there, but kind of building your own brand?

Margaritaville has done a fantastic job of creating our identity. A lot of it is not only through the great renovation that we’re in the process of doing right now, but using Jimmy Buffett’s passion and love for music, and visually, they focus not only on the visual part but the music in the lobby and the lighting.

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A giant sandal like this one at Margaritaville Resort in Hollywood Beach, Florida, will greet visitors to the Palm Springs location.

So what differences might people notice right away from its previous appearance?

I would say once you walk in the doors, you’re going to be hit with a lot of different sensory things. It’s going to be a very bright interior. The moment you walk in the door, you’re going to see a giant flip-flop to represent Jimmy’s laid-back style. The lighting, the music, it’s going to be very evident from the moment you walk in the door.

Is there any new construction going on, or is it strictly renovating what is already there?

It’s renovating what’s here. We are also creating another restaurant venue that we’re going to be doing a little bit of adjusting with the current food and beverage outlets so that we have additional options for people to dine. The retail space is being converted around to also offer food and beverage options.

And I noticed on the website that they mention family-oriented programming. Why is it important to include that segment?

I think it’s really important because this property with its great history has really been, I think, more of an adult resort. And Margaritaville brings a really diverse group of customers that are attracted to the brand. And as far as families go, that’s where a lot of memories are created that you carry throughout your entire life, and creating memories is what we really want to do here for people.

Can you maybe give me an example of what might be considered family-oriented programming?

I would say as we go through the food and beverage areas, we’re definitely developing menus and concepts toward different age groups. And one thing that we are doing in our guest rooms, we have some rooms that are double-bedded rooms, and we’ve turned those into king-size beds. So not a lot of hotels, when you have a double size room that you actually have large beds. So that would be helpful and accommodating families. And definitely the retail space is going to be very attractive and very different from what we’ve had here in the past with the items that we offer in there, and also the food and beverage options.

Palm Springs has always been considered a getaway place, a place to escape to obviously for visitors, but even for people who live here. How does Margaritaville fit into that type of experience, and why is it a good match for this market?

I think the big thing with the Margaritaville brand is, we use the term quite a bit about the different state of mind and relaxation, and we’ve got the amazing views here, and this is definitely going to be a place where you can relax.

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One of the last indications of the Riviera signage.

If you listen to Jimmy Buffet music, when you hear it, you always kind of escape. You always think of vacation and being away in a place where you can relax. And then likewise, when you’re at work and you want to dream about being on vacation, he definitely has the type of music that makes you escape. So I think it’s a wonderful place to come.

I also saw that you guys were opening a resort in San Diego. Why was this a good time for the brand to branch into California?

I think California is a wonderful place. When you think about San Diego, I think most people who go to San Diego, it quickly becomes one of their, if not their favorite, cities to vacation in. And we’re really excited here in Palm Springs to be the first and kind of a gateway.

What kind of impact has the pandemic had on completing renovations and was there any thought to waiting until next year?

Whenever you talk about COVID, you want to make sure that safety is the No. 1 priority. So we are very conscious of that while this is going on. In some ways, it’s assisted from a standpoint of the property is closed, so construction and renovation actually can probably move a little bit faster from that perspective. I think every one of us has been on a renovation when the public is still occupying the hotel. So in some ways, if there’s any silver lining, it’s probably helped progress to be made without interrupting any guest experience.

We have a unique hotel mix in Palm Springs with boutiques and major chains. What will separate Margaritaville Resort from the rest?

I think what’s neat about Margaritaville is that they have a very unique programming and very unique design. From the perspective of how they train, the amount of time they spend training, and ensuring that the Margaritaville culture is integrated among all the staff members, I’ve never seen it this detailed before. All the people at the corporate office and the leaders are just very passionate about the brand and making sure that the spirit and culture of helping people to get away and escape is present at all times.

Will there be any additional amenities on the property that weren’t there before?

We’re still going to have our great spa, which is the largest spa in the city. The new item out by the pool will be our Five O’ Clock Somewhere bar. It’ll be like a tiki bar. If you picture listening to Jimmy Buffett music, you’d be sitting at that bar. That’s exactly what it’s going to be. But of course with the beautiful mountains in the background.

For more information, visit margaritavilleresorts.com.

 

When Is The Best Time To Visit Palm Springs?

Written by CARRIE BELL
Photos Courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Palm Springs, the former Rat Pack playground now crawling with expansive luxury resorts, hip hotels, and home rentals, is a popular destination for golfers, spa seekers, music lovers, the LGBTQ crowd, nature geeks, new bohemians, and architecture buffs. Whether you plan a trip where the desert is the sole destination, tack it on to a larger California exploration, or take a quick weekend getaway from Los Angeles, The OC, or San Diego, the best time to visit Palm Springs is in late winter or spring although those willing to brave the desert’s punishing summer temperatures will be rewarded with cheaper lodgings and flights.

This guide to the region’s climate, festival season, and other signature events including tennis tournaments, pride celebrations, and film festivals should help you plan the ideal vacation in the greater Palm Springs area.

Palm Springs Weather

The vacation oasis experiences a fairly textbook desert climate, so plan for extremely scorching summers, temperate winters, drastic differences between day and night temperatures (sometimes upwards of 25 degrees), almost 300 days of sunshine, generally low humidity, and very little rainfall.

December is the coldest month, but that translates to an average high temperature of 69 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of 44 degrees Fahrenheit. By January, the forecast usually calls for the low 70s. In May and October, days in the 90s are still common, with some reaching triple digits. The heat drives most tourists away, especially in the height of summer, and if you can stomach (or even prefer) feeling hot, you’ll benefit from great deals and shorter lines. Remember to pack a few light layers as it can still get breezy and chilly when the sun goes down.

As with most deserts, there are occasional sandstorms. It can get very windy, hence the acres of electricity-generating windmills on the outskirts of town. April is typically the windiest month as seven or eight miles per hour gusts are normal. But when high-pressure systems move over the mountains from the coast, they can ratchet them up to 60 mph. It can move enough sand around to decrease visibility, degrade air quality, and close streets.

Palm Springs gets a majority of its annual rainfall between December and April. Although there isn’t that much need for warning as it doesn’t usually surpass six inches a year. But when rainstorms come, they have a tendency to drop fast and furious. It can lead to flash flooding and also shut down roads and hiking trails.

Peak Season

The climate dictates visitation. Traditionally, the tourist season hits its peak February through April and numerous signature events are scheduled in those perfect weather months. It’s a big Spring Break destination, and winter is popular with Canadian snowbirds as well. But the visitor stream is steady from November to May, especially around winter holidays (Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve in particular) and three-day weekends. During those coveted times, expect longer waits at restaurants, less timeshare availability, and higher rates at lodgings.

It will also be more expensive to fly there and take longer to drive from Los Angeles or San Diego, especially on Fridays.

Festival Season

For more than a decade, the greater Palm Springs area has been home to two of the biggest, most exciting music festivals in the world. For three consecutive weekends in April, the Empire Polo Fields are taken over by Coachella, a three-day rock, hip-hop, and EDM festival attended by 250,000 people, and Stagecoach, which is basically Coachella’s country music counterpart. Ticket holders should lock down lodging ASAP as the entire desert fills to capacity. If you aren’t interested in the shows, best to avoid those weekends as festival madness is all-consuming. Even budget motels like Rodeway Inn triple their rates and easily find people to pay those prices. Brands take over pools, private rentals, boutiques, and public spaces for VIP parties and pop-ups, which can spell late-night noise and debauchery in otherwise sleepy neighborhoods. Restaurants are overrun and traffic is nasty.

Another hugely popular event on the Palm Springs social calendar is Modernism Week, a celebration of the region's unique architecture and the desert modern/midcentury modern schools of design with home and neighborhood tours, expert lectures, and more. It's held in February. A fall preview in October, despite being a smaller affair, still draws a significant crowd of out-of-towners and makes hotel reservations harder to score and more expensive.

January

Visitors who spend months under umbrellas or shoveling snow might find the Palm Springs definition of winter, well, laughable as the average high is 71 degrees Fahrenheit and the low hovers around 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Events to check out:

  • Featuring more than 200 movies from 60-plus countries, the Palm Springs International Film Festival kicks off with an awards gala celebrating the previous year. Given its timing at the beginning of the annual awards season, it’s always a star-studded affair.
  • The American Express PGA Golf tournament is followed by two nights of concerts from names like Stevie Nicks, Luke Bryan, and Sammy Hagar.

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