‘It’s outdated’: Des Moines drafting plans for possible Principal Park renovation

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Principal Park has been the Iowa Cubs’ home since 1992, but the city of Des Moines now sees it as more of a fixer-upper.

“It’s one of the older stadiums left in Triple-A,” said Des Moines Parks and Recreation director Ben Page. “That’s not to say we haven’t done a good job at keeping it looking nice, it’s just an old ballpark.”

Des Moines’ Parks and Recreation Department is in the early stages of creating a master plan to renovate Principal Park, which the city owns, and the area around it. Page said they will likely have a version of the plan ready for city council to look over by October.

“What we want to do is list the things we need to do to have its next lease on life, and the order for what the priority of improvements should be,” Page said. “It’s outdated, so it needs to have some input and investment. We want to make sure we don’t just do a cookie-cutter stadium.”

Only three of the other 27 Triple-A stadiums are older than Principal Park:

  • Cheney Stadium, home of the Tacoma Rainiers, built in 1960
  • Sahlen Field, home of the Buffalo Bisons, built in 1988
  • PNC Field, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, built in 1989

The master plan for Principal Park could include more tailgating space, increased access to the river trails surrounding the stadium, or more bars and restaurants to connect Principal Park to the Court Avenue corridor.

The city distributed a survey looking for fans’ opinions through the summer, which was e-mailed to people through the I-Cubs’ mailing list. While the results of that survey are still being tabulated, many people who attended the I-Cubs game Wednesday night like the stadium just the way it is.

“It’s just a nice environment to bring family to and watch a good game,” said fan Jonathan Tallman. “I grew up coming to games with my parents, and now I’m getting my son in to see a game now that he’s older.”

“We’re lucky to have it,” said Stu Bassman, who said he has been attending I-Cubs games even when the prior Sec Taylor Stadium stood on Prinipcal Park’s site. “We’ve seen all the great players come through here. Javy Baez, Kris Bryant. This ballpark is just as good as a major league ballpark, except we don’t have as many seats.”

However, Page said the stadium does need renovations to improve to major league standards, now that Major League Baseball owns and operates Minor League Baseball. In particular, the clubhouses need to be expanded and the stadium needs protected parking for the players.

“Team personnel has expanded, so we have more people to house and more operations,” Page said.

The stadium also needs repairs to its concrete and a new heating and cooling system, according to Page.

Page said the city plans to use both city and private funds to pay for whichever improvements are needed.

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