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DSM USA: A Sports Haven

Watching Sports in DSM

December 6, 2023

One of my favorite answers I hear to the question “If you could change something about Greater Des Moines (DSM), or Iowa, in general, what would it be?” is, “There’s nothing in DSM for sports fans; I wish they had professional sports teams.” This is a great answer because it allows us to break the myth and share the myriad of live sports viewing options available. I’m here to break down some of these options to satisfy the cravings of my fellow sports lovers.

1. Minor League Sports

Minor league sports are full of talented athletes who work tirelessly on and off the court. Watching this effort adds energy and excitement you often don’t get when watching professional baseball or basketball. You never know when you might see a former MVP on a rehab assignment or the next MVP before being called up to the big leagues. Also, a devout fan base makes their favorite players into stars.

DSM offers several Minor League sports options, including the following local teams:

Iowa Cubs (AAA-affiliate of the Chicago Cubs)

The I-Cubs play their games from March – September along the river in Downtown Des Moines (DSM) at Principal Park. There are numerous special events weekly including playing catch on the field, weekend fireworks and $1 hot dog nights. They also allow you to bring your dog to the ballpark on occasion! Games are always a favorite for team outings and celebrations.

Iowa Wolves (G League-affiliate of the Minnesota Timberwolves)

The Iowa Wolves play from November – March at Wells Fargo Arena. Tickets costs are family-friendly and you get the chance to see NBA caliber players regularly. The Wolves have taken an interest in Iowa-native talent in recent years, so locals are likely to see some familiar faces as well. A key feature that sets Wolves games apart from an NBA game is some rule changes that speed the pace of the game up, like only shooting one free throw.

Iowa Wild (AHL-affiliate of the Minnesota Wild)

Our local hockey team, the Iowa Wild, play from October – April, also at Wells Fargo Arena. As a fast-paced sport, fans who want non-stop action don’t have to look far to find high-level hockey in Downtown DSM.

Iowa Barnstormers

Another unique team found in Des Moines is the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League. Perhaps known for elevating the career of Kurt Warner, arena football takes place from March – July at Wells Fargo Arena. The field is only 50 yards long, the sidelines are padded barricades and coaches are on the field with the players. Games are much higher scoring than college or NFL games. Numerous college athletes that do not make it into the NFL find themselves in the AFL.

High School Sports

From Hall of Famers such as Kurt Warner, to Olympic and former World Champions like Lolo Jones, Shawn Johnson and Kayla Banworth, Kyle Korver, to current stars like Harrison Barnes, Allen Lazard and Brandon Scherff, many gifted athletes you can see on national television got their start at the high school level here in Iowa and in DSM. An additional perk is that many colleges in the area have started to bring in and elevate more Iowa talent. Caitlyn Clark, the Joens sisters, AJ Green and the Murray brothers are all examples of this phenomenon. All that to say, there is a wealth of athletic talent in Iowa, and much of it is on display in DSM. 80,000+ fans attend the Iowa High School State Wrestling Meet at Wells Fargo Arena each year, the largest in the country. The girls state wrestling championships are the largest as well, since debuting in the 2022-23 school year. Since 2010, the class 5A/4A football state champion has come out of DSM, along with many champions in other classes. All of the amazing state basketball talent is on display for the playoffs at Wells Fargo Arena each year. High school sports are a great way to support local schools, introduce kids to sports and in the case of DSM, get an early glimpse at talent you’ll continue to watch for years to come.

Other Sports Outlets

There are a few other live sports options in DSM, including the Des Moines Menace soccer team which plays at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, horse racing at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, racecars at the Iowa Speedway in Newton or the Knoxville Raceway at the Sprint Car Capital of the World in Knoxville. Mixed Martial Arts promoters of various sizes also host fight nights throughout the region, and Smash Park allows you to watch most UFC and major Boxing pay per views with no cover charge.

In conclusion, with the many outlets of athletic talent on display throughout the region, there is plenty to love and to indulge yourself in as a sports fan in the area. And the best part is, there are already so many invested fans, you get to join a community of other passionate sports fans right away and watch your favorite athletes grow from high school prodigy to college legend to professional star, at a much cheaper price point than getting season tickets to follow your favorite NFL Team.

Go I-Cubs Go! Go Wolves! And Go DSM USA!

With the #7 Lowest Cost of Living in the U.S. and a Top Metro for Number of Economic Development Projects (among metros with a population of 200,000 to 1 million), Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a region where you can have it all. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.

Cody Krause

Cody Krause is an Iowa native. Originally from Dubuque, he moved to Des Moines after graduating from the University of Iowa with degrees in Actuarial Science, Statistics and Mathematics. He is currently a Fellow with the 2023 cohort of the DSM Fellowship Program and employee of Farm Bureau Financial Services.