Entertainment zone: A look at the new Court Avenue experience

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The new Court Avenue “entertainment zone” is officially underway this weekend.

From now until Sept. 4, parts of Court Avenue will be closed off to vehicle traffic on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. to create an enclosed entertainment zone for people 21+ to enjoy bars in the area. Organizers say the road closures will allow establishments to expand patio seating and create a “festival-type atmosphere” in the streets.

In order to enter the entertainment zone, visitors age 21+ will be required to pass through a gate with a photo ID and security screening.

Court Avenue entertainment zone (WHO 13)

Tom Zmolek, chair of the Court Avenue Association, said there have been plans for more than a decade to temporarily fence off Court Avenue into a pedestrian-only zone. However, Zmolek said the recent shootings on Court Avenue in April motivated him to present the proposal to the Polk County Board of Supervisors. Now that the plan has come to life, Zmolek is confident it will create the right kind of atmosphere in the district.

“It was the right timing with the shootings we had a few weeks ago,” said Zmolek. “Summer is always a crazier time down here and we in the past had the element of people hanging down here that weren’t of age. They were just causing problems. This kind of ‘kills lots of birds.’”

In the entertainment zone, patrons can take beer or wine outside on the street but not mixed drinks. People will be carded at both the entertainment zone entrances and at each bar. There are five different places to enter the zone, with a metal detector and an ID scanner at each one. Zmolek likened it to going to a concert at Wells Fargo Arena.

Temporary fencing is now blocking off Court Avenue at 2nd Avenue and 4th Street as well as 3rd Street on both sides of Court Avenue. Fencing around the area will be set up on Friday afternoons and taken down early Sunday morning. Vehicles will be able to leave the area once gates are in place.

Additionally, you can get to the 3rd & Court Parking Garage, and there are Lyft and Uber drop-off zones right outside of the entertainment area. Admission to the entertainment zone is free.

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