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Official Review by James Hilchen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Knapp Center sits on the grounds of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. The arena opened on December 1, 1992 at a cost of $12.5 million and was named after William Knapp, a member of the Drake Board of Trustees, who played an integral part in getting financing for the arena.
The Knapp Center plays host to Drake Bulldogs men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball. The men play in the Missouri Valley Conference, making a natural rivalry with fellow MVC and in-state school Northern Iowa. For a small school (about 5,000 students), Drake has had some basketball success, boasting a trip to the Final Four in 1969, followed by trips to the Elite Eight in 1970 and 1971. Drake last appeared in the NCAA tournament in 2008.
The arena has undergone upgrades in the last few years. A new LED scorer’s table and video board was installed along with better lighting, new graphics on the walls, and a new replay system.
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The Knapp Center doesn't offer the most elaborate choices but they have the basics covered and most of the prices are reasonable. Pizza from Papa John's, sausage, hot dogs are all $3. A walking taco will cost you $4, with a wrap being the highest price at $7-$8. The wrap is a nice option as you have many different options to choose from. Snacks, including pretzels and popcorn are also in the $3 range.
As is the case with most schools, alcohol in not available at the Knapp Center. Your drink choices include Coke products for $3.
Inside the arena is bathed in Drake colors, blue and white. Looking around the arena, banners are displayed for the various players and accomplishments of the team. The biggest and most prominently displayed among them is the banner representing the appearance in the 1969 Final Four. The majority of the seats along both sidelines are comfortable chairback seats although there are some bleachers higher up on one side. Both baselines (which is where the student section and band sits) are bleacher seating. The band adds a lot to the atmosphere and overall enjoyment of the game. While it is sometimes a drawback, the smaller venue also adds to the atmosphere in this instance, with the crowd right on top of the court.
The Knapp center is located just south of downtown Des Moines which is a fabulous place. Just down the street from the arena is Jethro's BBQ. Jethro's offers up some great BBQ and has a monster sandwich, named after former Bulldog Adam Emmenecker, that has been featured on the Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food."
Just a few miles north is downtown Des Moines, which has enough options for everyone if BBQ isn't your thing. The High Life Lounge, also featured on Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food," features top notch broasted chicken along with their well known bacon-wrapped tater tots. High Life has shag carpet, old advertisements, and is total 70's. The food is great and drinks are plenty.
For a unique experience, Fong's Pizza is worth a visit. Fong's is a Chinese and pizza fusion restaurant. You can go the traditional pizza route or go for something as unique as crab Rangoon pizza. Be sure and order the egg rolls. They are the best in town.
There are plenty of other options for food and drink as well as numerous hotels located near I-235. If time permits, the State Historical Museum and Iowa Capitol building are worth a visit and both located downtown.
Fans at the Knapp Center, and Iowa in general, are a knowledgeable bunch. Although the game I attended wasn't full (a big snowstorm was looming), the crowd was loud and sensed the ebbs and flows of the game. The student section is generally overflowing with students that are into the game from start to finish and add to the fun atmosphere.
On a day when the arena is packed, parking can be an issue. There aren't many large parking complexes in the area. If you are early and lucky there may be a few random free spots. However, the majority of the time, there are lots which will run $8. On the good side, they are close to the arena and a short walk.
Inside the Knapp Center, the concourse is plenty wide to get around. The one drawback is there is only one clearly marked set of restrooms, located near the entrance to the arena. As such, you may have to do a little walking depending on where your seats are and there may be a line during down times of the game.
Attending a game here is a very good value. Tickets range anywhere from $5 up to $20 for the best seats you can buy, which is a bargain for NCAA division I college basketball. Combine the ticket price with reasonable food prices and the Knapp Center will show you a darn good time for not a lot of money.
An extra point goes to the game day staff who are quite friendly and offer a nice little program upon entry, free of charge.
The Knapp Center does a great job of celebrating Drake athletics. From the banners atop the arena to many different exhibits around the lobby, make sure and take the time to look around, there is lots to see.
Final point goes to the student section. They are in the game the entire way and greatly add to the college basketball atmosphere.
Drake, admittedly, is in a tough spot. Thirty minutes north is Hilton Coliseum, home of the Iowa State Cyclones, a top 20 team. Ninety minutes northeast is the McLeod Center, home of the top 20 (and MVC rival) Northern Iowa Panthers. Two hours east is Carver-Hawkeye Arena, home to the Big 10 Iowa Hawkeyes. Even with all the choices, the Knapp Center deserves some consideration. Its smaller feel adds to the atmosphere and provides some good, quality basketball for fans in a fun environment, and at a very reasonable price.
Member Review by Tige_Hutcheson
Even the most loyal Iowa sports fans can sometimes forget that the state has a fourth Division I program: the Drake University Bulldogs. Even though the school is only home to around 5,000 students, the Drake Bulldogs have managed to prove themselves as a legitimate basketball school, posting a number of memorable seasons since the program's introduction in the 1906-07 season. Located in the heart of possibly one of the most underrated sports cities in the United States, Des Moines, the Knapp Center has served as the home of Drake Bulldogs basketball since its construction in 1992, and provides a quality example that a quality sports experience comes down to a lot more than just size and exposure.
Member Review by CigarBoy on Dec 21, 2011
I found the Knapp Center to be a very average experience. But even though the venue is pretty average, this is Valley basketball and the price is great!
3100 Forest Ave
Des Moines, IA 50311
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Des Moines, IA 50309
600 E Locust St
Des Moines, IA 50319
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