It was another touchstone moment in the life of Acrisure Arena on Thursday, as the concrete was poured to form the main ice rink, and a ceremonial first seat was installed.
V. Manuel Perez, the Riverside County Fourth District supervisor, was the honorary "first sitter" during a media photo opportunity held Thursday morning at the Arena which will be the home to the Coachella Valley Firebirds hockey team and many concerts and events when it opens in December.
As Perez sat down Thursday in section 120, row M, seat 10 with a Firebirds jersey on and a bucket of popcorn, construction noises, the shouts of foremen and the beeping of trucks backing up were echoing all around him.
This is a very active construction site, and with a firm date of Dec. 18 now set for the first hockey game, to see the rink concrete and even one lone seat is an important moment for the team that is keeping the project on schedule.
"Having that seat in there does mean something, it means we're on the home stretch," said Bill Deiter, the Project Executive for AECOM Hunt Construction, the firm building the arena. "We've got a lot of work to do still, of course, but now we're at a point where on a weekly basis, almost on a daily basis you see the job starting to really finish.
"Even small things like we have rooms that are completely done, doors are on, we closed the door and we're out," Deiter said. "That's really when the project starts to pick up momentum, because the workers that are out here begin to feel like 'Alright, we're getting things done, closing doors and moving on to the next area.' It's a good feeling."
Ground broke on Acrisure Arena in June of 2021, so the project with a price tag of $250-300 million is now 14 months in. Anyone driving along Interstate 10 has seen the outside of the 10,000-seat arena, which can be opened to 11,000 seats for concerts, come into shape over the past year. Thursday's tour offered a good look at the inside.
And what it looked like was a hockey arena. Not the idea of a hockey arena, but with Thursday's pouring of the concrete for the main rink, the vision is fully formed. There is a horseshoe of stands with the concrete slabs where all the seats will go and many of the railings already in place. That area surrounds the now level sheet of concrete on top of which ice will be placed some time in November or early December as one of the last parts of the project.
On the west end is an open area which will be for a bank of retractable seats that will be in use for hockey games, and can retract into the wall to make room for a stage for concerts.
"For me, with the first seat and the laying of the foundation for the hockey rink, today really signifies the beginning of hockey," said Steve Fraser, the president of Acrisure Arena and the Coachella Valley Firebirds. "It shows the community that this is coming. It's a chance to be able to be part of something that is really special. And seats are on sale, and you better get them quick while they last."
Ever the salesman, Fraser said season ticket sales have been "going fantastic." Adding that if anyone is on the fence, they should talk to a sales rep at cvfirebirds.com and learn their options. The Firebirds schedule is out, but single-game tickets are not available yet.
John Bolton, the GM of Acrisure Arena and the senior vice president of Oak View group, said the ceremonial first seat also means we are moving closer to the announcement of some of the bands that may be playing and other events that are set for the 2022-23 season.
"Getting that first seat in is exciting, getting the last one will be extremely exciting," Bolton said. "Once the seats are in, shows can be announced and I think people will be excited when they start realizing all the programming and events that are going to be happening on a year-round basis."
Shad Powers is a columnist for The Desert Sun. Reach him at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Acrisure Arena pours concrete for main ice rink, installs first seat