New 'Field of Dreams' movie site owners unveil plans for youth baseball and softball complex
The new owners of the "Field of Dreams" movie site hope people will come to the iconic farm again, just as James Earl Jones’ character prophesied in the 1989 film.
And, now, they're planning to give people another reason to come.
Go the Distance, which owns and operates the site, was scheduled to announce a massive makeover Thursday morning, using $80 million in private investment to build youth baseball and softball fields, team dormitories and a hotel, among other improvements, near the movie site, in rural Dyersville, Iowa.
"I am grateful for all that the game of baseball gave me throughout my career," Hall of Famer and Go the Distance CEO Frank Thomas said in a statement provided to the Des Moines Register, "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."
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Thomas’ group, which purchased controlling interest in the movie site last year for an undisclosed amount, has high hopes for the overhaul, which is expected to be completed in phases by the end of 2023.
The work won’t end there.
The hope is to keep Major League Baseball coming back to the site after a successful visit in 2021. Last season's MLB game between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees showed just how special an event the site can host. That game was played in a specially constructed stadium near the iconic diamond from the movie. This season, the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds are set to play a game there on Aug. 11.
The 2021 game, which included a touching tribute by Kevin Costner, the star of the movie, drew rave reviews. It ended with the White Sox winning on a walk-off home run by Tim Anderson.
After the game, FOX Sports announced the game was the most-watched regular season baseball game in 16 years, with 5.9 million viewers tuning in on FOX and FOX Deportes.
More big-time baseball and softball action could be coming to the site soon.
According to the press release provided to the Register, future MLB games are being discussed, along with a permanent stadium to host the games at the complex. The stadium could also host high school and college tournaments and championships for men's and women's sports.
Additional planned work through 2025 calls for a 100,000-square-foot fieldhouse, an outdoor concert amphitheater, an RV park, a large park inclusive for children and adults with disabilities, and jogging trails throughout the cornfields surrounding the site.
The site has already become a popular tourist attraction for sports fans and movie buffs. In the film, Costner portrayed an Iowa farmer who plows over his corn to build a baseball field where the ghosts of Joe Jackson and other members of the banished 1919 Chicago White Sox can play. The Reds, one of the teams scheduled to play at the site this August, beat the White Sox in the thrown 1919 World Series.
PREVIOUSLY: How Kevin Costner's timeless tribute at Field of Dreams came to be
Earlier this month, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced plans for the state to allocate $100 million of federal money to tourism projects through the Destination Iowa program. The program is expected to help fund projects like the site in Dyersville.
Go the Distance expects the development will add 170 new full-time equivalent jobs and that events held there will result in more than $25 million in direct annual spending. Go the Distance's property, which added 100 acres to the original 190 acres of the family farm and movie site, will also continue working as a farm.
“While the substantial private investment will expand and enhance our facilities, we are deeply committed to preserving the romantic experience of the Field of Dreams, including the views, the baseball diamond, the farmhouse and the cornfield,” Go the Distance COO Dan Evans said in a statement. “Those images will never change.”
Chicago real estate developer Rick Heidner, who was an initial investor in the movie site with the previous owner, Denise Stillman, is investing in the new project. A decade ago, Stillman also pitched plans to build youth fields for tournaments at the site. That plan was met with skepticism from locals and fans who worried the site would become overly commercialized.
Stillman, who died in 2018, said in 2015 that the legal spat between her ownership group and the group opposed to her plans, the Residential and Agricultural Advisory Committee, had scared off major investors.
Her family sold controlling interest to Thomas and his partners last year. But her dream of building a sports complex at the site remains.
“Like baseball, successful real estate development requires preparation and hard work and then recognizing opportunity when it comes," Heidner said in the statement. "The opportunity is here now to ensure the experience of the Field of Dreams endures for generations."
Follow Tommy Birch on Twitter @TommyBirch.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: 'Field of Dreams' film site owners plan big baseball, softball complex