A breeding ground for future Chicago Cubs stars like alums Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, and Geovany Soto, the Triple-A Iowa Cubs generate the cheers of baseball connoisseurs through a masterful display of dexterous double plays, smoking strikeouts, and crowd-pleasing home runs. Under the new management of Bill Dancy, who boasts 1,604 minor-league victories, the I-Cubs are poised to start 2011 in winning form and improve upon last year's 82–62 mark. Watch as Herculean hurler Jay Jackson strikes out petrified batters and right-fielder Brad Snyder looks to top the 25 home runs and 107 second-base slam dunks from last season's play. Home games begin on April 15, but baseball boosters can begin planning romantic dates and family-fun days by checking out the seating chart and 2011 game schedule.
Despite being a relatively young organization, the RoughRiders have done an impressive job of filling up their trophy case. The team officially moved from Mason City to Cedar Rapids in 1999, leaving behind their Huskies moniker in the process. It’s been one accomplishment after another ever since. In 2005, the RoughRiders claimed their first Clark Cup as champions of the USHL. That same season, they brought home the Anderson Cup, too, for posting the league’s best record during the regular season—a feat they repeated in 2011. RoughRiders fans have witnessed much of this success at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Known affectionately as The Stable for its rowdy, but family friendly atmosphere, the arena echoes with clanging cowbells on game days to celebrate goals and drive away feral Zambonis lurking outside the building.
The Quad City Symphony Orchestra tickles ears with beautiful melodies and spectacular performances during its annual "Holiday Pops" concerts. Guest conductor Michael Butterman takes charge of an all-star cast that features six-time U.S. figure-skating champion Todd Eldredge as he shows off his moves and carves his version of a perfect tumbleweed into the ice. Actor and Quad Cities native John Getz lends his vocal talents to festive proceedings, and internationally acclaimed trumpeter Jon Faddis jazzes up orchestral pieces with fiery improvisation. The show takes place at the i wireless Center, with guests choosing from lower-bowl seats for straight-ahead sightlines or upper-bowl perches for enviable views of conductor stage dives.
The Waterloo Bucks stampede into the 2012 season as part of the Northwoods League, which corrals collegiate ballplayers from across the country for an abbreviated, three-month season. Since beginning play in Waterloo in 1995, the Bucks have captivated local fans each summer, showcasing baseball's future stars before they head back to their universities or decide to study abroad beneath second base. This season, the Bucks will chase their third league championship behind a roster loaded with both international and homegrown talent, including University of Iowa outfielder Andrew Host. Aside from giving them a chance to hone their skills during summer months, the Northwoods League aims to provide its players with a minor-league-type experience, complete with overnight road trips and wooden bats, meaning hitters don't have to tune their lumber to the correct ping prior to each pitch.
The same venue that hosts weddings and upscale dinners also welcomes established comedians and rock bands, making First Avenue Club a go-to destination for all manner of events. Inside, a full-service bar overflows with 12 draft beers, 40 bottled beers, and a wealth of mixed drinks. Further behind the scenes, the kitchen fires up hearty entrees such as roast pork loin and baked cod.
The YMCA of Greater Omaha brings people together at 10 locations with character-building programs that strengthen participants' involvement in their community. Adults can get a head start on their New Year's fitness resolutions with body sculpting, Pilates, and other tummy-toning group fitness classes, while kids can expend some energy at a drop-in child-care center that is free while parents work out. YMCA members also enjoy reduced rates on swim lessons and youth sports, as well as free senior programs. All locations except the LaFern Williams Y offer indoor pools for aquatic antics that cannot be properly enjoyed in a bathtub's limited splashing-real estate.