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  • James Hilchen

Wells Fargo Arena - Iowa Wolves

Photos by James Hilchen, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14

Wells Fargo Arena 730 3rd St Des Moines, IA 50309

Year Opened: 2005 Capacity: 16,110


Iowa Wolves

Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa is one of three complexes (along with Hy-Vee Hall and Community Choice Convention Center) that comprise the Iowa Events Center.

Located on the banks of the Des Moines River, Wells Fargo Arena opened in 2005, replacing Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium as the primary venue for sporting events and concerts in Des Moines. Since 2007, the arena is home to the Iowa Wolves of the NBA G League. The Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League began play in the arena during the 2008 season and the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League began play in the arena in 2013. The Iowa Chops of the American Hockey League also played in the arena from 2005-2009. In 2016 the arena hosted first and second round games for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Prior to the 2015-2016 season, the arena spent $1.6 million on a brand new video board. The HD board (sitting above center court) has curved screens for easier viewing by fans all over the arena.

Food & Beverage 2

Wells Fargo Arena offers food and drinks in the traditional open concourse style. Normal stadium fare is available with very little wait time. Brats and hot dogs along with popcorn and other snacks are your main options with entrees running $5-$10 and snacks $3-$5.

Coke products are served throughout the arena. Also available are a litany of different beers along with wine and mixed drinks. Most items go for $10-$12.

There are other concessions areas but they were all closed on this night. Perhaps for other events with bigger crowds, they would be open as well.

Atmosphere 3

In addition to traditional seating, there are plenty of luxury suites overlooking the floor along with seats right on the court. Seats are padded and comfortable with cup holders on the back of all the seats. It is easy to find the score as it is available on all four sides above the lower seating bowl as well as above the court on the video board. The video board above the court also shows replays and stats throughout the game. The arena has a nice layout, which allows for quick trips to both concessions and the restrooms.

Alpha, the mascot, spends the majority of the time walking through the crowd but does appear on court to throw a few items into the crowd. The arena floor is much bigger than your typical basketball court. As such, there is a big gap between the floor and the seating bowl, especially on the baselines. The view from the baseline seats are very good but with the large gap, it can be a little distracting.

Neighborhood 5

Located in downtown Des Moines, Wells Fargo Arena is near many great attractions and plenty of places to eat and drink. At night, all the bridges in the area light up creating an amazing scene with the lights reflecting off the water. Across the river stands the Iowa capitol building which is an amazing building inside and out. In addition, the Iowa History Museum and Science Center of Iowa are a few blocks away.

There is no shortage of great places to grab a drink or have a meal before or after the game. Directly across the street from the arena is Buzzard Billy’s. Offering up great Cajun food and plenty of drinks, Buzzard Billy’s is a popular post-game stop. The catfish is highly recommended.

Just across the Grand Ave bridge on the corner of 4th St. is Zombie Burger. This ghoul-themed eatery has been getting national attention lately for its unique burger combinations. The food is great and they offer a big line of microbrews to suit any taste.

No trip to Des Moines would be complete without a trip to the El Bait Shop. El Bait Shop has nothing to do with fishing. What it does have is 222 different beers on tap, which they claim is the largest selection of American craft beers in the world. In addition, they serve some great bar food. This is one of Des Moines’ more popular hangouts and well worth a visit. Whatever your tastes, you are certain to find it within a very short distance from the arena.

Plenty of lodging is available downtown. Directly across the street from the arena is a Fairfield Inn and Suites along with a Comfort Inn.

Fans 2

The fans are about what you would expect for an NBA G League team. There are a group of hard cores that make noise, follow the game closely, and rock their Wolves gear. You also have the casual fans that just come to see a basketball game and another group of folks that are there because their son or daughter is performing at halftime and they don’t particularly care about the game.

Access 5

Wells Fargo Arena is located downtown and sits right off of I-235 making it very easy to access. Parking is available right across the street for $8. You can also park at a parking structure on Fifth and Keo for $5 and take the Skywalk (enclosed area that goes building to building that is very beneficial in the winter). On evenings and weekends metered parking is free, but downtown Des Moines is quite popular and open spots around the arena don’t last long. The concourse is very wide and there are no problems getting around. The entire building is handicap accessible. There are plenty of restrooms that are very clean and wait times for concessions are generally very short.

Return on Investment 3

Ticket prices generally range from $18-$36, depending on your choice of seating. The Wolves have quite a few specials throughout the season, so you can typically purchase tickets for a cheaper price if you go with their promotions. There aren’t any bad seats as there are no restricted views and even if you are sitting on one of the baselines, it is still very easy to see the game and getting refreshments or using the restroom is convenient. With average concession prices and $5-$8 parking, you can have a fun night at the game without breaking the bank.

Extras 2

The arena does a good job of celebrating the accomplishments of its tenants. Banners adorn the ceiling, including the D-League championship banner that the Energy (now Wolves) won in 2011.

Prior to the 2017-2018 season, the Wolves signed a single affiliation deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team’s color scheme changed to make it similar to their northern partners and the Wolves do a great job of celebrating and promoting that relationship with Minnesota.

Final Thoughts

Des Moines is a great town and Wells Fargo is a nice arena. A pleasant staff and quality basketball round out what is an enjoyable game day experience. If you find yourself in Des Moines, be sure to take in a Wolves game.

Follow my sports journeys on Twitter and Instagram: @stadiumjwriter

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