In 1989’s Field of Dreams, an Academy Award–nominated box office hit based on W.P. Kinsella’s 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, Kevin Costner plays Ray, a baseball-loving Iowan at risk of losing the family farm to foreclosure—that is, until an otherworldly voice kicks in one evening while Ray is wandering in a cornfield, urging him to plow up part of said cornfield and convert it into a baseball diamond: If you build it, he will come. In normal circumstances, taking serious real estate guidance from mysterious voices from beyond (the corn?) can only lead to trouble. But in Field of Dreams, a baseball-themed fairy tale centered on the themes of fatherhood, forgiveness, and redemption, Ray and his family are ultimately saved from financial ruin.
Now, the owners of the very same Dyersville, Iowa, farm where Field of Dreams was filmed are heeding that very same advice by adding nearly 100 acres to the existing 190-acre property as part of a master plan set to include nine new fields for youth softball and baseball, team dormitories, and a 104-room boutique hotel. These elements are slated for completion by the end of next year; future development phases through 2025 will include the construction of a 100,000-square-foot field house, RV park, outdoor concert amphitheater, jogging trails through the cornfields, and a sprawling park designed to be inclusive for children and adult with disabilities. A permanent baseball stadium at the site is also a possibility further down the road at the expanded site, described as “premier youth baseball and softball destination for players, families, fans, and tourists from around the world.”
The $80 million development scheme, which will also preserve much of the idyllic property as a working farm, marks the largest private investment in Dyersville history and one of the largest-ever in Dubuque County.
To be clear, they’ve already been coming to the Field of Dreams Movie Site by the busload for years. The property, owned and operated by Go the Distance Baseball, LLC, is among Iowa’s top pop culture-famous tourist attractions alongside the titular bridges of Madison County. It’s expected that 300,000 baseball fans will make the pilgrimage to the site this year alone. The rural acreage—described in a press release as being preserved as a “baseball shrine for future generations”—currently features a souvenir shop, tours and rentals of the farmhouse featured in the movie, a concession stand, and, of course, a ball field. Last August, the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox faced off on at the famed Dyersville diamond for what was the first-ever regular season Major League Baseball game held in Iowa; this summer, the iconic ball field will host another game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds.
Go the Distance Baseball, which shifted ownership last summer after the site’s initial investors sold their controlling stake in the company, has tapped a consulting team led by RDG Planning & Design, a multidisciplinary firm with multiple offices including in Omaha, Des Moines, and Iowa City, along with local firms Origin Design and Conlon Construction, and Leopardo Companies to provide architectural, engineering, planning, and construction services for the master plan’s development.
Per Go the Distance Baseball, phased development work at the Field of Dreams Movie Site will support hundreds of construction jobs; when fully completed, its anticipated that the expanded facility will generate around 170 new full-time equivalent jobs. Events hosted at the site are expected to result in more than $25 million in direct annual spending. Meanwhile infrastructural improvement at and around the site are already underway.
“I am grateful for all that the game of baseball gave me throughout my career, and now I am proud and excited to lead a team that is building opportunities for players, fans, and families to enjoy our national pastime and for teams to train and compete,” said Frank Thomas, a retired MLB star and Baseball Hall of Fame inductee who now serves as CEO of Go the Distance Baseball, in a statement.
Joining Thomas at Go the Distance Baseball is Dan Evans, a longtime MLB executive from Chicago, in the role of COO. The site’s initial investors are Chicago-area real estate developer and baseball fan Rick Heidner, who retains his minority investment in the venture, and the late Denise Stillman. Her family sold their controlling interest in Go the Distance Baseball following last summer’s MLB game between the Yankees and the White Sox, an event that, several years after her death, fulfilled a longtime dream of Stillman.
In addition to development work, This is Heaven, LLC, the new venture led by Thomas and Heidner that manages Go the Distance Baseball, has announced that it will establish a new charitable organization, Field of Big Dreams, that is meant to “inspire hope and provide life-changing opportunities for children with cancer and military veterans and their families, with the mission of providing resources and support to turn dreams into reality.”
“We are excited by the progress that is being made by owners who have deep roots in baseball and the financial resources to infuse private investment dollars that will turn long-held visions for the Field of Dreams into reality,” added Jacque Rahe, executive director of Dyersville Economic Development Corp.