Sep 30, 2022 - Sports

Iowa Cubs owner to extend $16K lease for Des Moines' Principal Park

A photo of Principal Park in Des Moines.

“The Seam" is a sculpture at Principal Park and the answer to this week's "Where is Jason" question. Axios DSM reader Jason Kohles of Johnston won yesterday's contest. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Principal Park's $16,000 annual lease to Iowa Cubs owner Diamond Baseball Holdings (DBH) will be extended under an agreement that goes before the Des Moines City Council Monday.

  • It's the equivalent of about $1.40 a seat for the 11,500-capacity city-owned stadium, team clubhouse, parking lots and surrounding grounds. The new lease will run until 2032.

Yes, and: The city council is also set to approve spending nearly $8 million on the first of a five-phase plan to upgrade the park. Phase 1 includes clubhouse improvements and mechanical upgrades.

  • That's more than $2 million above last month's estimate.
  • DBH, which took ownership of the Cubs last year, will also make a nearly $1.3 million contribution towards the first phase.

Why it matters: The extension comes at a time when millions of dollars in improvements are necessary for the park to remain in compliance with new Minor League Baseball (MiLB) facility requirements.

Catch up fast: Principal Park opened in 1992 and is among the oldest Triple-A stadiums in the nation.

  • City leaders have long viewed the facility as an amenity to help generate business and tourism.
  • The lease amount has not changed since the park opened in 1992.

Reality check: Annual lease payments to DSM traditionally represent only a fraction of the investment made by owners, Michael Gartner — the Cubs' previous owner of more than 20 years — told Axios Thursday.

  • He estimates the team made an annual average of $500,000 in facility improvements that were outside of the lease requirements when he was owner.
  • DBH's contribution required under the proposed lease is just the beginning of the group's longer-term investments, Sam Bernabe, the team's general manager, told Axios Thursday.

What's next: The costs, timelines and scope of later phases will largely depend on city budget decisions and fundraising, Bernabe said.

  • A parking garage, shopping or restaurants are ideas in the park's master plan.

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