New Vision for ‘Field of Dreams’ Home Would Expand Baseball Pedigree
It’s been more than two decades since a mysterious voice urged Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella: “If you build it, he will come.” That line from “Field of Dreams” has become iconic, so it should be of little wonder that the farm where the 1989 movie was filmed continues to attract upward of 60,000 visitors each year.
The field sits on a 193-acre farm that has been in Don Lansing’s family for more than 100 years. In 2010, though, Lansing and his wife, Becky, decided it was time to retire and sell the farm.
They finally struck a deal with Mike and Denise Stillman, operating as Go the Distance Baseball LLC. The Stillmans’ outlay has not been disclosed, but speculation puts it close to the Lansings’ asking price of $5.4 million. That figures out to nearly $28,000 per acre — at a time when “good” quality Iowa farmland is selling for an average of $9,370 per acre. The Stillmans and their fellow investors hope to close on the land at the end of August or early September.
A baseball fan’s dream
Iowans are proud, no-nonsense folks. That’s probably why so many are shocked that this place still matters to so many baseball fans and movie buffs. Where they see magic, the locals see 90-degree heat, humidity and mosquitoes the size of small birds.
“Remote” is an appropriate word to use when describing the field’s location. Dyersville, population 4,100, is just a few miles away. The drive is considerably longer from major Midwest cities: 206 miles from Chicago, 324 from Omaha, 288 from Minneapolis. Even Des Moines is a three-hour drive away.
A gravel road leads visitors into a dirt parking lot that, even mid-week, is often filled with cars from not-so-nearby locales: Pennsylvania, British Columbia, South Carolina, California, Utah. Over the years, the field has played host to celebrity ball games, fantasy camps and ghost player re-enactments. Congressional delegations and even presidential candidates have made their way to the site.
There’s no admission fee here — never has been. Visitors come and play catch on a well-kept diamond that’s been carved out of a corn field. They pitch balls to total strangers and photograph themselves walking out of the corn stalks, just like the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson did on the big screen. They take pictures of the white farm house (now offices not open to the public). Like actors Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones, they sit on wooden bleachers. There’s a primitive restroom in an old farm shed, and T-shirts, caps and coffee mugs are available in a small souvenir stand.
A new vision
In early August, Becky Lansing was still staffing the site’s souvenir stand and busied herself talking to visitors about the field’s future.
“Honey, you can come back here in five or 10 years, and this field will be exactly the way it is today,” she told a man who’d traveled from Chicago with his young grandsons. “The way the new owners talk, this field will be just like this when your grandsons want to bring their kids to visit. They may add running water, but everything else will be just the same.”
What will change, though, is the surrounding acreage.
The Stillmans plan to transform the land into “All-Star Ballpark Heaven,” a 24-field baseball and softball tournament facility. The state of Iowa has passed a law that gives developers rebates on sales taxes collected at the baseball facility for 10 years after it opens — up to $16.5 million. When completed, it will be one of a handful of such complexes, including one near the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
Some neighboring farmers are worried about increased traffic, water runoff and pollution. Others don’t believe claims that the site will create hundreds of jobs in area restaurants and hotels. The Stillmans estimate 1,500 families will trek to the site weekly for tournaments and camps; many in the region think those figures are too high. Why in the world, those logical Iowans wonder, would anyone trek to a cornfield in the middle of nowhere just because of baseball?
Hey, it’s happened before. If the Stillmans build it, they just may come.