Jan 31, 2023 - Sports

Des Moines' busiest-ever year for sports

Illustration of a basketball, football, and baseball in a popcorn bucket.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The Des Moines metro is expected to have one of its most "diverse and lucrative," years of sporting events yet in 2023.

Driving the news: A record-breaking number of sporting events and attendees are expected to converge in the metro this year, according to Catch Des Moines, a convention and visitors bureau.

  • The event calendar starts with 20,000 people for the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament in March, Greg Edwards, CEO of Catch Des Moines, tells Axios.

State of play: There will "easily" be over 100,000 people here combined for events like the AAU Junior Olympic Games, Hy-Vee IndyCar Race, Ironman 70.3 and even a major league "Quidditch"-type game.

Flashback: 20 years ago, venue bookings in Des Moines were primarily for conventions (80%), while sporting events only made up 20%, Edwards says.

  • That's shifted to almost 50-50 today.

How it happened: Building more sports complexes that also provided indoor spaces over winter, like the Iowa Events Center and the new 300,000 square-foot MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex, Edwards says.

The intrigue: Edwards, who bids on events to bring them to DSM, says it's helpful to target more niche sports, such as skateboarding or archery.

What's next: Construction on several more major sporting venues is underway, including Grimesplex, Ignit Sports and Recreation Complex and phase two of the Prairie Trail Sports Complex.


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