The state-of-the-art building opened in July 2005, and features facilities every bit as nice as what the Dallas Stars enjoy at the American Airlines Center. There is not even a hint of hesitation in saying that, after having the opportunity to tour the facilities here in Iowa's capital city the last few days.
"I think from the team's perspective, the Wells Fargo Arena is absolutely top-shelf," said Scott White, Iowa's Director of Hockey Operations. "We had the Manitoba Moose come into our building at the end of the season and they couldn't stop talking about how impressed they were. That's saying something because they have an unbelievable arena up in Winnipeg. Our rink and the facilities we have here are just great and we are really proud to call this home."
Wells Fargo Arena has a capacity of 15,181 for hockey, featuring 36 premium suites, and features a 180-seat restaurant, The Principle River's Edge, which overlooks the Des Moines River and the gold-domed State Capitol.
One of the first events at the Wells Fargo Arena was a Paul McCartney concert, and the building has hosted such acts as: Bruce Springsteen, Green Day, Toby Keith, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bon Jovi, Nickelback, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. The Iowa state high school wrestling and basketball tournaments are held in the facility, as will the opening rounds of the 2008 Women's NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Cirque du Soleil and the Harlem Globetrotters have played Wells Fargo Arena, as well as the Champions on Ice, Tony Hawk skateboarding, Barnum & Bailey's and American Idol tours. The arena is part of the expansive Iowa Events Center complex in downtown Des Moines, which also includes the Hy-Vee Hall, Veteran's Memorial Auditorium and Polk County Convention Center.
The Iowa Stars enjoy an incredibly spacious set-up, including a 30-seat dressing room, training and equipment rooms, a large strength and conditioning area, coaches' offices and even a room that the players have turned into their own personal ping-pong battleground.
"It's a really great building and a great dressing room area for us," said defenseman Niklas Grossman. "Everything is so clean, new and spacious, and it's just as nice as the facilities they have in Dallas. I have no complaints at all about this rink. Everything is set up for us, we just have to go out and do our job."
The coaches and front office have posted numerous motivational messages and team-building concepts around the clubhouse area, keeping the players' minds where they need to be.
"We have a number of slogans and reminders to the guys around our dressing room what we are all about here," said Iowa Head Coach Dave Allison. "From the photos of Dallas draft picks who went through the minors on their way to the NHL, to some of the slogans we have -- "Choose Your Destiny" for example -- those are messages that we want to instill in our players everyday that they are here."
The consensus among the players is that Wells Fargo Arena is among the best arenas in the American Hockey League, and that they are lucky to call it home.
"When I first came here, I honestly couldn't believe it," said Junior Lessard, who has also called Utah and Houston home at the AHL level. "We have everything we could possibly ask for here. It's a great set-up and we take a lot of pride in what we have."
"I think it's one of the nicest arenas in the AHL," said goaltender Dan Ellis, "and it's definitely up there with the NHL standards. They've been great to us. We have a great workout facility, lots of space to do what we need and we are really comfortable here. We are able to come to the rink and have everything we need at our fingertips."