I had the pleasure of attending my first Iowa Cubs game. An easy 4.5 hour drive into the heart of Iowa is the city of Des Moines. In the middle of the city lies Principal Park, the longtime home of the longtime AAA Cubs affiliate. Opening in the 1992 season, Principal Park is coming up on 30 years old, yet is still a great place to take in a Cubs game. It was next on my list for my 2021 Minor League baseball tour.
Principal Park is located near the intersection of the Racoon and Des Moines Rivers. It has a couple of surrounding parking lots for $12 per car. You can also try to find street parking if you dare. It was easy to get in and out, logistically very simple and easy.
The park has a private club in left field. You pay $5 to get access, and get a "free" drink included. The Betfred Sports Lounge is air conditioned (a VERY nice perk on a 90 degree day), and has the cleanest private bathrooms you will see in a baseball stadium. It also has a special restaurant, with unique food choices. It appears to be a bit of a well kept secret, despite the team prominently advertising the Lounge. It's totally worth the $5 on a hot day. You'll also wind up wandering into the climate controlled team shop and spending even more money. I grabbed both my dinner options from the Lounge.
The Mad Dog:
A jumbo hot dog coated in hot sauces, served on a bed of cole slaw with blue cheese. Kind of a weird combo, but it worked out really really well. The hot sauce and blue cheese meld together for good flavor, then the cole slaw gives it a nice crunch. The hot dog itself was all beef and plenty tasty. Not too spicy, but has a kick. It's a well crafted balance of sweet and heat. It's a really good sandwich-like alternative to the normal hot dog. 9/10.
Solid. The pork meat was perfectly breaded and fried. Mine came with ketchup and mustard which I assumed you put both on. I should have stuck with mustard. No matter, it was still a great sandwich. I can not emphasize how fresh tasting the pork patty was. Even though I messed it up with adding ketchup, it is a crown jewel of a sandwich. 9/10.
Later on that night, I had to cool off somehow. So I picked up a snowcone from the concourse behind home plate. It is just your standard blue raspberry snowcone. I needed to beat the heat, and it did the trick. It was large, plenty of bang for the buck. 8/10.
On a side note, while I was devouring that snowcone, a foul ball made its way over to me. I was worried it would clear the net and hit my drink, so I instinctively protected my assets. No matter. It didn't clear the net and the 3B made a great catch.
The stadium offers tons of food and drink options. I found two craft beer sections: a larger one with nearly 30 different beers, and a smaller one with their 10 favorites. For food, there are several Chicago themed grills, a taco stand, a couple of pork stands, and then numerous standard vendors who offered the typical ballpark faire.
Seats are good. My seat was along the third base line, right beside the home plates of the I-Cubs bullpen. Walking around the park, I don't think there are any real bad seats. It's all close to the action. There are a couple of private booths in left field, as well as ringing around home plate.
The game itself was interesting. The Iowa Cubs would lose 12-8, on a combined 9 home runs between the two teams. Dinger fest! There was a slog of a 5th inning, where it would take nearly 50 pitchers for the I-Cubs to retire the side while giving up a difference making 7 runs. Fortunately, there was a bit of a late comeback to make it interesting again. Nick Martini "hit for the cycle," as in he had a double, triple and homer, but walked to start his evening.
The other real noticeable aspect to the experience at Principal Park is the people. The stadium workers were all very friendly. and not in an over the top, butter you up kind of way. Very authentic and nice. Everyone I talked to was very knowledgeable about the team and the state of the overall Cubs franchise. It was a very nice touch that subtlety provided a GREAT experience. Well done!
Overall, it was a long but fun day in Des Moines. After a 4.5 hour drive, I chose to get to the park at 5 to walk around. Totally worth it, but I was beat by the time the post-game fireworks were blasting off.
Iowa Cubs at Principal Park is an experience I totally recommend. I've got two more games here in Des Moines, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.