- James Hilchen
Wells Fargo Arena – Iowa Wild
Photos by Dennis Morrell and James Hilchen , Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Wells Fargo Arena 233 Center St Des Moines, IA 50309
Year Opened: 2005
Wells Fargo Arena is the biggest of three different arenas that comprise the Iowa Events Center. Opened in 2005, Wells Fargo Arena is located on the banks of the Des Moines River. The arena is a multi-purpose venue and home to three sports teams as well as concerts and other events throughout the year. Wells Fargo Arena replaced Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium as the main sporting and concert venue in the Des Moines area.
Prior to the 2015-2016 season, the arena spent $1.6 million on a brand new video board. The HD board (sitting above center ice) has curved screens for easier viewing by fans all over the arena.
The Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League began play in the 2013-14 season at the arena. The Wild were previously known as the Houston Aeros and are affiliated with the Minnesota Wild of the NHL. The inaugural game for the Wild was a 1-0 victory over the Oklahoma City Barons on October 12, 2013 before a crowd of 10,200. The Wild broke their attendance record on November 9, 2017, when 13,422 fans watched Iowa defeat the Rockford IceHogs, 5-3. Generally the arena set up for a hockey capacity of 8,162, but can hold about 17,000.
Wells Fargo Arena is also home to the Iowa Wolves of the NBA G League and the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League. The arena is not new to hockey, having been host to the AHL’s Iowa Chops from 2005-2009.
Food & Beverage 3
Wells Fargo Arena offers a decent variety of food and drinks. Stu’s Bar-B-Q is a popular spot to grab some good BBQ. The brisket sandwiches ($10) are tasty as are the Gaziano sausage sandwiches ($9). Local restaurant Bordenaro’s serves pizza slices for $5. Cheeseburgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, grinders, and Philly cheese steak are available for about $6-$7. Hot Dog Nation has numerous types of hot dogs from $4.50-$7.50. Snacks including popcorn and candy are also available at $3-$6.
Coca-Cola products are the choice of soda at $3.50, $4.50, and $6 (souvenir cup) depending on size. The recommendation for Cokaholics, such as myself is the souvenir cup; they come with $2 refills. Also available are Red Bull ($5), water ($4), and coffee ($2.50). If you fancy ice cream and shakes, Moovers and Shakers has you covered with numerous flavors and options from $5 to $7.50.
There are $9 cans of beer available (25 oz). Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Busch, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Corona, and Mike’s are your choices. Head over to section 108 for the Bud Light Bar. It offers a full-service bar and a nice place to watch the game.
Stadium seating surrounds the ice and there are luxury boxes available as well. The brand new scoreboard hangs above the middle of the ice, making it very easy to see the score, statistics, and replays. There are no hindered views anywhere in the arena. Getting in and out of your seats to get something to eat or use the restroom is an easy task. Lines at the food concessions are usually very short but if you are in line for a moment, there are HD monitors near the concession areas so you won’t miss any action.
The arena is set up for a capacity of 8,162 for hockey with other areas tarped off. It makes for a better, more exciting atmosphere. One note for larger fans; the upper deck has seats that aren’t as wide as the lower seating bowl. Generally, getting seats in the lower bowl isn’t an issue but if purchasing tickets in the upper bowl, make sure to get one on an aisle. Most aisle seats have arm rests that are adjustable, giving a little more room.
Downtown Des Moines is fabulous. The area surrounding the arena has every type of food imaginable and plenty of places to have a drink. One block south of the arena is Buzzard Billy’s. Serving Cajun food as well as some traditional bar fare, Buzzard Billy’s is a great place to go before or after the game. The catfish is great, there are plenty of drink specials and if you haven’t tried alligator before, this is your chance.
A few blocks farther south, there is a litany of places for any type of food. If pizza is your thing, it doesn’t get much better than Fong’s Pizza. Fong’s is quite an eclectic place. A former Chinese restaurant, Fong’s kept all the ambiance of the former tenant, but with a pizza flair. The egg rolls are recommended as an appetizer and the pies range from the traditional to unique combinations such as crab Rangoon pizza. It is a popular hangout in Des Moines and super busy on some nights, but if you can get in, the food is great.
There are plenty of other food and drink options as well as numerous lodging options. Comfort Inn & Suites is directly across the street (to the north) from the arena. The Des Moines Marriott is a few blocks south. If traveling with family, be sure to visit the Iowa Capitol Building and the State Historical Museum of Iowa. Both are great places to take kids and both are free.
The Wild are in their fifth season of existence beginning the 2017-2018 season and have a decent fan following, generally finishing in the middle of the pack in AHL attendance. The Wild have their group of hard cores that attend every game, always rock their Wild gear, and try and make it uncomfortable for the opposing team. After the typical celebration for a Wild goal, the opposing goalie is serenaded with a chant of “it’s your fault.” With Des Moines being less than four hours drive to the NHL Minnesota Wild (the two teams are affiliated), it isn’t uncommon for fans to come down from Minnesota to take in a game or two and see the future of their hockey team.
Wells Fargo Arena is located in downtown Des Moines and easily accessible off I-235. Parking is available in the arena lots for $8. Parking structures are a couple blocks away and cost $5. An added benefit of Des Moines is the sky walk. The sky walk links buildings via an enclosed walkway that makes it easy to get from parking structures to the arena without going outside.
Once inside the arena, it is very easy to get around. The concourse is wide, plenty of clean restrooms are provided, and sections are clearly marked.
Return on Investment 4
You can get in the door to see the game for just $10. Prices range from $10 on the second level up to $45 for a seat next to the glass. With the way the arena is set up for hockey, there are no bad seats and all sections are easy to get in and out when needed. A ticket combined with $5-$8 parking and average food prices makes for a fun night at the arena without breaking the bank.
An extra point goes to the ushers who are consistent in wanting fans to wait to re-enter the seating bowl during play. It’s a small thing but it makes a big difference to the fans watching the game.
One extra point goes to the Wild organization. They are making it a point to be very visible in the city and as fan friendly as can be. From post-game skates to post-game autograph meet and greets with players at Buzzard Billy’s after select games, the organization does a great job of providing extra perks for fans.
A final point for the constant deals that the Wild give to their fans. There are discounted tickets offered to nearly every game, teaming up with companies such as Subway. Be sure and check the Iowa Wild website prior to coming and you will likely find a deal to save you a few dollars.
Wells Fargo Arena is a great venue for hockey. The organization cares about the fans, the price of attending a game is very reasonable, and downtown Des Moines has something for everyone. The AHL provides some quality hockey and taking in a game in Des Moines is a fun experience.
Follow James Hilchen’s stadium journeys on Twitter @stadiumjwriter