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  • James Hilchen

Principal Park – Iowa Cubs

Photos by James Hilchen, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Principal Park

1 Line Drive

Des Moines, IA 50309

Year Opened: 1992

Capacity: 11,500


Principal Park: Home of the Iowa Cubs

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 Principal Park replaced the outdated Sec Taylor Stadium.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. In 2006, new seats and a new video board were installed along with a fountain beyond right field. Before the 2013 season, 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 2015, a brand new video board replaced the dated video board. The new Daktronics video board measures 64x24 feet and allows for far more statistical information to be displayed for fans. Due to safety concerns around baseball, the nets behind home plate were extended to the far ends of the dugouts prior to the beginning of the 2016 season.

Principal Park hosted one of the most famous (or infamous) games in Pacific Coast League history on June 14, 2008. Torrential rains caused the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers to overflow, flooding a portion of downtown Des Moines. With the ballpark surrounded by water, the game that day was played in an empty stadium, to an official attendance of zero. In order to avoid having any fans show up, the game began at 4 P.M., was not broadcast, and was announced as postponed. Josh Kroeger’s seventh-inning home run was the winning run in Iowa’s 5-4 victory.

The stadium played host to the 1997 Triple-A All-Star game and hosted the Iowa state high school baseball tournament for many years.

In 2021, longtime owner Michael Gartner sold the team, which is now owned by Diamond Baseball Holdings. While there is new ownership, the front office has remained intact and, as always, the Iowa Cubs primary focus is presenting a fun and safe atmosphere for the fans.

Food & Beverage 4

A wide variety of food options are available. Iowa is the biggest pork-producing state in the country and that fact is reflected here. The pork tenderloin sandwich, an Iowa staple, is available in two sizes. The large is enormous. Make it a basket if you want fries. Several items are available at the bacon stand, including the bacon explosion basket (bacon sliders w/fries) and bacon-wrapped hot dogs can be had.

Stu’s BBQ serves up a great brisket sandwich and BBQ nachos. Other typical ballpark fare such as hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, chicken sandwiches, etc. are all available. Being a Cubs affiliate, you can pick up a Chicago Dog or Italian Beef sandwich at the Lil Chicago stand. You can also pick up an Old Style at this booth to go along with your food.

Coke products are sold at Principal Park in three sizes. For soda enthusiasts, you can buy a bottomless Coke. Be sure to 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.

Craft beer is big in Iowa and Principal Park celebrates it. In the concourse behind home plate is the Iowa Craft Beer stand. You have your choice of a whopping 32 local brews, so bring your palate and enjoy!

Atmosphere 4

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. There is also a tremendous view of the Des Moines skyline looking over the left field corner. If you have visited Principal Park before the 2015 season, the biggest noticeable difference is the video board over the right field wall. The upgrade makes a world of difference and allows for fans to get much more information, including current stats, the pitcher’s pitch count, etc. A new batter’s eye was installed prior to the 2023 season, but the views remain.

The seats are comfortable and are all stadium seats in the infield seating bowl. General admission is down both lines and in right field, but the small added cost of a reserved ticket is well worth it. The bleachers under the video board can be particularly hot during day games and are best avoided unless there is a full house.

In the right field corner (Schaal Chill Zone) 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.

Neighborhood 5

Downtown Des Moines has anything and everything you could desire. There are plenty of places to have a drink before or after the game and a litany of different food options. Just down the street from the ballpark 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. The High Life, with its shag carpet and old neon beer signs throughout, is worth a stop. It has been featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” show. The bacon wrapped tater tots are quite popular. Also the broasted chicken which customers rave about is some of the best chicken around.

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.

The newest option will be particularly popular on nights with great weather. In 2016, the 300 Craft and Rooftop bar opened across the street from Principal Park. Take a two minute walk after the game and enjoy a few drinks on the 3,000 square foot outdoor patio atop a building that also includes a couple other restaurants and a gym.

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. The view of the Capitol building from the stadium is outstanding and the inside is just as impressive as the outside and admission is free.

Fans 3

Like at most minor league stadiums, the fans are a mixed bag. With the longevity of the team being affiliated with the Chicago Cubs, there are many diehards that you can count on seeing nightly. The fans have been spoiled with the amount of prospects that have played here the past few years. Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, and others have made the team even more popular. The regular fans follow the game pitch-by-pitch and can tell you all you need to know about the team. There are also those that appear to be there more for the social aspect, to see fireworks, or that come with a group and don’t pay much attention to what is occurring on the field.

Access 4

Principal Park is easy to get to and you can access it directly from I-235. Parking is steep at $13. You can park a little farther away, across MLK Parkway, and save a buck. You will have a little bit of a walk but that is recommended 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.

Return on Investment 3

Depending upon your preference, tickets generally range from $10 for general admission to $40 for home plate club seats with wait staff. General admission for children (13 and under) is $7. In 2023, the team went to dynamic pricing for tickets. As such, the tickets prices will vary but they won’t drift far from what was the normal pricing. 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 $250. Included is admission to the game and all you can eat and drink.

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. The only drawback here is the parking cost. The recommended spot to sit is 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.

Extras 5

An extra point for the amazing view of the capitol building. It is certainly one of the better views around.

The Iowa Cubs have a really neat tradition every year prior to the July 4th (or 3rd) game. In addition to the traditional fireworks, a group of individuals from around the globe give their oath and are sworn in as citizens of the United States, in what is always a very popular citizenship ceremony.

The walk-in beer cooler is a rarity and definitely worth a look.

For history buffs, be sure and take a look in the north parking lot, near MLK Blvd. A preserved fort is on the ballpark’s property. The fort represents the birth of the city of Des Moines, Iowa.

The team does a great job of celebrating its long-time affiliation with the Chicago Cubs. The ballpark has reminders of this affiliation everywhere you go.

Final Thoughts

Des Moines is an underrated city with a great downtown scene. The location of the ballpark is in a perfect location for entertainment before and after the game. Inside the gates is a great place to sit back and watch a game while taking in some great views and a litany of good food and drink options. Principal Park isn’t the newest stadium around, but it still provides a quality time for baseball fans of all ages.

Follow my sports journeys on Twitter and Instagram: @stadiumjwriter

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