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Official Review by James Hilchen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Located at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, Principal Park, then Sec Taylor Stadium, opened in 1992. Principal Park replaced the outdated Sec Taylor Stadium. The new stadium was also named Sec Taylor Stadium until 2004 when the Principal Financial Group bought the rights to the name and Principal Park was born.
Through the years, upgrades have been made to the stadium, including adding sky boxes in left field and, later, skyboxes on the first base side. In 2006, new seats and a new video board were installed along with a fountain beyond right field. The latest renovations occurred prior to the 2013 seasons when the locker rooms were upgraded along with a small patio area beyond left field that now plays host to musical acts prior to and after selected games.
In addition to being home of the Iowa Cubs, Principal Park plays host to the Iowa state high school baseball tournament on an annual basis. The stadium hosted the 1997 Triple-A All-Star Game and on June 14, 2008, was home to a game with an official attendance of zero. The Iowa Cubs and Nashville Sounds played to an empty stadium as flooding in downtown Des Moines prohibited the allowance to fans to attend the game. The game was not broadcast and the team announced the game was postponed in order to keep fans from attempting to show up.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
A wide variety of food options are available. The pork tenderloin sandwich, an Iowa staple, is available in two sizes and comes with fries. The regular sized basket is $7.00 or you can go for the giant sandwich basket for $12.00. As a Cubs affiliate, the Italian beef sandwich ($7.00) is available and quite tasty. Stu's BBQ has your typical BBQ plates for around $8.00 including brisket and pork sandwiches.
New items for 2013 include the pulled pork tacos and bacon Sloppy Joes for $8.50. The Sloppy Joes were recommended to me and didn't disappoint.
Typical ballpark fare such as hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, chicken sandwiches, etc. are all available for about $4-$7.
Coke products are sold at Principal Park in three sizes. The best deal is the large souvenir cup for $5.00. For soda fans, you can purchase a bottomless soda for $11.00.
A wide variety of beer is available from the regular domestic to imports to some microbrews. Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite will run $3.00 to $7.50 depending on size. Guinness and other imports (premiums) are $7.50. While there, be sure and check out the Coors Light beer box in the concourse. It's a walk-in refrigerator full of beer. Inside are different sizes of cans and brands for about the same range of drafts. The big cans go for around $8.50.
Upon entering the seating area, it is impossible to miss the stunning view of the Iowa Capitol Building over the center field wall. The building sits atop a hill and as beautiful as it is during the day, it is even better at night when the numerous domes are lit up.
The seats are comfortable and are all stadium seats in the infield seating bowl. There is a general admission area in right field that has metal bleachers but the small added cost of a reserved ticket is well worth it.
In the right field corner is a fountain that runs during the game and is great for kids (and some adults) on particularly hot days. The fountain shoots water after Iowa home runs and other exciting plays that benefit the home team. Inside the concourse is a large play area for kids including batting/pitching games and a large climbing/jungle gym type structure.
Principal Park is located in downtown Des Moines and there are plenty of places to eat and drink as well as some great places if traveling with families. Just down the street from the stadium is the High Life Lounge. Obvious by its' name, the High Life Lounge serves Miller but, not to fear, plenty of other options are available. High Life Lounge has been featured on the Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food" show. The bacon wrapped tater tots are quite popular. I went with the broiled chicken which customers rave about. The customers are correct, the chicken is fantastic.
Johnny's Hall of Fame is a traditional sports bar and generally very busy. They have various drink specials including Old Style specials during all Chicago Cubs games. Johnny's has traditional bar food and their Reuben is quite good. Unless you are fan of butter, avoid the soft pretzel appetizer.
Buzzard Billy's is another great option. They have plenty of drink choices and good food. Buzzard Billy's serves many traditional bar foods but they are known for their Cajun and do it well. The catfish dinner is outstanding.
There are many options for lodging in the area although pricey with it being downtown. Two options are the Hyatt and Holiday Inn downtown. You can save a few dollars staying farther out. With the stadium being close to the interstate, it's easy to get in and out of downtown.
If traveling with family, the Iowa History Museum and Science Center of Iowa are great places to take the kids. When visiting Des Moines, a visit to the Capitol is a must. Built in 1886, it is an amazing building. As noted in the "atmosphere" section, the view of the Capitol building from the stadium is outstanding and the inside is just as impressive as the outside.
All baseball fans that come to Des Moines must make the short 25 minute drive to Van Meter, Iowa, west of Des Moines. Hall of Famer Bob Feller was born in Van Meter, which is home to the Bob Feller Museum. The museum is filled with historical memorabilia and, at $5 for admission, is a must-see. The museum hosts numerous autograph signings throughout the year.
Like at most minor league stadiums, the fans are a mixed bag. There are the fans that enjoy the games and know the players. They are there on a nightly basis and care about the outcome of the game. Another group is simply people that want to do something so they come to a baseball game. They don't particularly pay attention, are surprised and laugh when a foul ball misses them by a couple inches, and spend more time playing with their phones than anything else. Fortunately, more fans fall into the first category than the latter.
Principal Park is easy to get to and you can access it directly from I-235. Parking is $7. You can park a little farther away, across MLK Parkway, and save a couple bucks. You will have a little bit of a walk but I would recommend it on nights where the occasion dictates large crowds such as fireworks nights. There are limited exits leaving the main parking area at Principal Park. One of those exits is blocked on fireworks nights because they close the bridge on MLK and use that bridge to shoot off the fireworks. As such, lines are long and slow moving when leaving.
Inside the park, the concourses are wide and easy to maneuver. Restrooms, concessions, and handicap seating is sufficient for the crowds.
Depending upon your preference, tickets range from $8 for general admission to $27 for home plate club seats. General admission for children is $4. For those that plan on consuming a lot of food and drink, perhaps your best bet is a table in the Budweiser Club seats. Located down the left field line, you can purchase a table for 4 in the Bud Club for $200. Included is admission to the game and all you can eat and drink.
Prices are reasonable and a reserved seat will cost you $12 ($7 for kids). Food is about what you would expect to pay at a ballgame and you can get a decent seat, a beer, and something to eat for less than $30. I recommend sitting over the visitor's dugout on the first base side. In addition to great seats, you have a great view of the capitol building and the Des Moines skyline.
An extra point for the amazing view of the capitol building. It is certainly one of the better views around.
One extra point for the cotton candy vendor, who can be heard throughout the game yelling "yummy, yummy, yummy." During lulls in the game, much of the crowd will chant it with him.
The walk-in beer cooler is a rarity and definitely worth a look.
The game day staff, ushers, concessions people, etc. are quite friendly, help when asked, and do a good job of keeping the park fan friendly.
Principal Park is a great place to take in a ballgame. There is plenty for the kids to do and while there are some promotions, the focus is on baseball during the game. What surrounds the stadium adds to the experience. Downtown Des Moines has a lot to offer for adults and kids. A visit to Principal Park will not disappoint.
Member Review by Tige_Hutcheson
You may never see Des Moines, IA unless you live there or are passing through on your way to somewhere else, but trust me when I say that it's very underrated and the perfect home for a sports franchise. Iowans pride themselves on being family friendly and self-supportive, and Principal Park has done a great job of merging those two characteristics together to form a unique and fun ballpark and fan experience.
Member Review by megminard on Sep 21, 2012
The exterior is landscaped perfectly with green grass, places to sit, flowers,etc. There is an excellent view of the state capitol building from the seating area.
Take time walk around the exterior of the stadium to view the downtown area, the bridges, the rivers, and the backside of the stadium entrance gate.
Fans are absolutely wonderful and friendly.
The one downfall is the ushers did scoot fans from sitting in the empty infield seats even when it was the 11th inning and there were about 200 fans in the stadium.
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