Knapp Center – Drake Bulldogs

by | Jan 31, 2018 | James Hilchen, NCAA Basketball

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Nice Day for a Knapp

The Knapp Center sits on the grounds of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. The arena opened on December 1, 1992 at a cost of $12.5 million and was named after William Knapp, a member of the Drake Board of Trustees, who played an integral part in getting financing for the arena.

The Knapp Center plays host to Drake Bulldogs men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball. The men play in the Missouri Valley Conference, making a natural rivalry with fellow MVC and in-state school, Northern Iowa. For a small school (about 5,000 students), Drake has had some basketball success, boasting a trip to the Final Four in 1969, followed by trips to the Elite Eight in 1970 and 1971. Drake last appeared in the NCAA tournament in 2008.

The arena has undergone upgrades in the last few years. A new LED scorer’s table and video board was installed along with better lighting, new graphics on the walls, and a new replay system.

Food & Beverage 3

The Knapp Center doesn’t offer the most elaborate choices but they have the basics covered and most of the prices are reasonable. Pizza from Papa John’s and Chick-fil-A sandwiches are available. Hot dogs and sausage sandwiches along with popcorn, pretzels, and candy are also on the menu. Combos with a drink give you the most bang for your buck.

Coca-Cola products are the drink of choice. If you go with the souvenir cup, refills are just $2.

Atmosphere 3

The inside of the arena is bathed in Drake colors, blue and white. Looking around the arena, banners are displayed for the various players and accomplishments of the team. The biggest and most prominently displayed among them is the banner representing the appearance in the 1969 Final Four. The majority of the seats along both sidelines are comfortable chair back seats, although there are some bleachers higher up on one side. Both baselines (which is where the student section and band sit) are bleacher seating. The band adds a lot to the atmosphere and overall enjoyment of the game. While it is sometimes a drawback, the smaller venue also adds to the atmosphere in this instance, with the crowd right on top of the court.

Neighborhood 4

The Knapp center is located just south of downtown Des Moines, which is a fabulous place. Within walking distance of the arena is Jethro’s BBQ. Jethro’s offers up some excellent BBQ and has a monster sandwich, named after former Bulldog Adam Emmenecker, that has been featured on the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food.

Just a few miles north is downtown Des Moines, which has enough options for everyone if BBQ isn’t your thing. The High Life Lounge, also featured on Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food,” features top notch broasted chicken along with their well-known bacon-wrapped tater tots. High Life has shag carpet, old advertisements, and is total 70’s. The food is great and drinks are plentiful.

For a unique experience, Fong’s Pizza is worth a visit. Fong’s is a Chinese and pizza fusion restaurant. You can go the traditional pizza route or go for something as unique as crab Rangoon pizza. Be sure to order the egg rolls. They are the best in town.

There are plenty of other options for food and drink as well as numerous hotels located near I-235. If time permits, the State Historical Museum and Iowa Capitol building are worth a visit. Both are located downtown and are free.

Fans 3

Fans at the Knapp Center, and Iowa in general, are a knowledgeable bunch. The stands aren’t always packed, but the fans that show up are into the game from tipoff. The student section is generally overflowing with students and they do their best to give grief to the opposing team whenever possible.

Access 2

On a day when the arena is packed, parking can be an issue. There aren’t many large parking complexes in the area. If you are early and lucky there may be a few random free spots. However, the majority of the time, there are lots which will run $10. On the positive side, they are close to the arena and a short walk.

Inside the Knapp Center, the concourse is plenty wide to get around. The one drawback is there is only one clearly marked set of restrooms, located near the entrance to the arena. As such, you may have to do a little walking depending on where your seats are and there may be a line during down times of the game.

Return on Investment 4

Attending a game at the Knapp Center is a very good value. Tickets range anywhere from $10 up to $25 for the best seats you can buy, which is a bargain for NCAA Division I college basketball. Combine the ticket price with reasonable food prices and the Knapp Center will show you a darn good time for not a lot of money.

Extras 3

An extra point goes to the game day staff who are quite friendly and offer a nice little program upon entry, free of charge.

The Knapp Center does a great job of celebrating Drake athletics. From the banners atop the arena to many different exhibits around the lobby, make sure to take the time to look around. There is a lot to see.

One final point goes to the student section. They are into the game the entire way and greatly add to the college basketball atmosphere.

Final Thoughts

With Iowa State just 30 minutes north, it might be easy to overlook Drake athletics. However, the Knapp Center offers a fun time and good basketball for a reasonable price. Couple the venue with a nice downtown that has plenty of great options and attending a game at the Knapp Center is worth any basketball fan’s time.


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Food and Drink Recommendations

Jethro’s BBQ

3100 Forest Ave

Des Moines, IA 50311

(515) 279-3300

Fong’s Pizza

223 4th St

Des Moines, IA 50309

(515) 323-3333

Do you want to add your listing on  Here’s how!-


Entertainment Recommendations

Iowa State Capitol

1007 E Grand Ave

Des Moines, IA 50319

(515) 281-5591

State Historical Museum of Iowa

600 E Locust St

Des Moines, IA 50319

(515) 281-5111

Do you want to add your listing on  Here’s how!


Lodging Recommendations

Comfort Inn & Suites Event Center

929 3rd St

Des Moines, IA 50309

(515) 282-5251

Des Moines Marriott Downtown

700 Grand Ave

Des Moines, IA 50309

(515) 245-5500

Do you want to add your listing on  Here’s how!

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Stadium Info

Knapp Center
2601 Forest Ave
Des Moines, IA 50311

Drake Bulldogs website
Knapp Center website
Year Opened: 1992
Capacity: 7,152

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