The Arena Football League awarded Des Moines its first arena football franchise in 1995, which originally played in Veterans Memorial Auditorium. The Barnstormers made the playoffs in their first season and have advanced to two Arenabowl Championship games, first in 1996 and again in 1997, falling both times.
The team was sold in 2000 and the following season became an affiliate of the af2. The next year they ceased operations. After a 7 year void, the Barnstormers returned to Wells Fargo Arena as an af2 team before joining the top-tier league once again in 2010. Throughout history the team has consistently had one of the best attendance averages in the league. The season runs from March to July.