DYERSVILLE, Iowa — The owner of Field of Dreams in Dyersville plans an $80 million investment into the beloved movie site.
Officials with Go the Distance Baseball are unveiling a master plan of projects and improvements for the site, including nine new ballfields, a 104-room boutique hotel and an outdoor concert amphitheater. Plans also call for the construction of team dormitories, a 100,000-square-foot fieldhouse, a recreational vehicle park, an all-abilities inclusive park and jogging trails through cornfields.
Go the Distance Baseball leaders and other local officials came to the Telegraph Herald on Wednesday afternoon for an exclusive discussion about the far-reaching plans, which will be detailed to the public at a press conference this morning.
Officials estimate that the completion of the ballfields will allow the site to host 1,000 youth teams for tournaments annually, but they also emphasized their commitment to preserving the site of the iconic movie, including the baseball diamond, farmhouse and cornfields.
“The Field of Dreams means so much to so many people,” said Frank Thomas, CEO of Go the Distance Baseball and a Major League Baseball Hall of Famer who spent 16 years of his 19-year career starring for the Chicago White Sox. “I’ve put a lot of my passion behind it, and I’m proud of (the master plan for the Field of Dreams). A lot of sweat and hard work went into it.”
This is Heaven LLC — a venture headed by Thomas and Chicago-area real estate developer and entrepreneur Rick Heidner — purchased all of the interest in Go the Distance Baseball owned by the Denise M. Stillman Trust in a move announced in September. Heidner was an initial investor in Go the Distance Baseball.
Along with Thomas becoming CEO, former Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager Dan Evans took on the role of chief operating officer.
Heidner said the $80 million plan will be covered by private investments, and the group is “100% committed” to completing the projects.
To complete the expansion plan, an additional 100 acres will be added to the current 190-acre site. Heidner said the group soon will close on the purchase of the additional acreage.
“This will be a seismic change for the good,” Evans said.
The new expansion plans follow the bright spotlight on the Field of Dreams following the thrilling, heavily watched Major League Baseball game there last year in a temporary stadium adjacent to the movie site. Another game is planned for Aug. 11 this year between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds.
Jacque Rahe, executive director of Dyersville Economic Development Corp., said expanding the Field of Dreams site has been a goal for a long time, and this plan is the biggest investment in the history of the Dyersville area.
“For the community, we want something like this to preserve this (site) for the future,” she said. “It does have magic out there.”
The new youth sports complex will boast nine new baseball and softball fields, as well as team dormitories. They will be complete in 2023.
The fieldhouse is expected to be complete by 2025.
Their construction comes as interest surges in youth tournaments in Dyersville.
More than 350 youth baseball teams have signed up to play in tournaments in the city this year, up from 106 last year, Evans said.
The youth tournaments are being held in partnership between Dyersville-based All-Star Ballpark Heaven, an affiliate of Go the Distance Baseball, and Baseball Factory.
Evans said the new sports complex will be a premiere site for tournaments in the future. Heidner said they anticipate having more than 1,000 teams play there annually.
“It will be not only a destination place in Iowa but in North America,” Evans said. “It will be the most unique place to hold a youth tournament on the continent.”
Keith Rahe, president and CEO of Travel Dubuque, said a feasibility study was conducted as part of the planning process. Youth sports complexes in areas such as the South boast similar features to what is planned at Field of Dreams.
“Right now, we definitely don’t have anything like this in the area,” he said.
Ryan Peterson, senior partner with RDG Planning & Design, noted that the fields are designed so the outfields will be surrounded by corn. That gives players the opportunity to hit home runs into the cornfields — the same setup as the movie site’s field, as well as the temporary Major League Baseball stadium erected last year.
Peterson also said 500 parking spots are planned at the site to accommodate the tournaments and that additional spots can be added if needed.
The boutique hotel will be located across Lansing Road from the Field of Dreams site and could be completed as early as the end of 2023.
Additional projects also are planned through 2025, including the amphitheater, RV park and inclusive park.
Thomas added that baseball-themed retail stores also are part of the site’s vision, as well as other events.
“We hope to be busy out there 365 (days a year),” he said.
In addition to the major project, Go the Distance Baseball is starting a charitable organization that will debut at the August MLB game called Field of Big Dreams. Thomas, who lost a sister to leukemia, said the organization’s main focus will be on children with cancer and veterans.
All of these plans follow progress already being made at the site. Last month, Dyersville City Council members awarded contracts for the first two phases of water and sewer infrastructure work to the site.
Evans said water infrastructure and fiber optic cables will reach the Field of Dreams in time for the August MLB game, and sewer infrastructure will be in place by the fall.
While all of these changes are happening, Heidner stressed that there still will be 70 acres of corn left, and the original movie site will remain.
“Preserving the site was a major, major thing,” he said. “It was something we promised.”
Future with MLB
There also might be plans in the works for a permanent stadium for MLB games. Thomas said there have been “extensive talks” with MLB officials about having annual or biannual games at the site in the future.
“I like the idea of every other year,” Thomas said. “If we make it fresh every 24 months, we’ll have time to ramp it up.”
Heidner added that MLB currently already has an option for one more game, so a game in 2023 or 2024 is likely.
Thomas said he would like to make the festivities around any future Field of Dreams MLB game even bigger, including a week’s worth of events leading up to game day.
Keith Rahe said plans are in the works for events around this August’s game.
“There’s a lot of different things we’re working on in expanding the experience,” he said. “There’s a lot of different things we’ll be able to see and do and make free.”
The newly unveiled master plan shares similar elements to plans proposed for the site by Michael and Denise Stillman, who previously owned and operated Go the Distance Baseball and purchased the movie site in 2011.
In 2012, the couple announced plans for 24 new ballfields, an indoor training facility, team dorms and an amphitheater. But those plans had not yet come to fruition at the time of Denise Stillman’s death in 2018.
Jacque Rahe mentioned the Stillmans’ previous plans and efforts over the years to keep growing the Field of Dreams.
She said the new additions at the site will help not only bring tourists to the area but potentially also new residents.
“Usually, you visit a place before you go there to live,” she said. “Look now at the ability we have for people to come and visit.”
Keith Rahe said while this scale of a project always would be celebrated, it is especially welcomed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that dramatically impacted tourism. He said the increased tourism will be felt as well in Dubuque, where many visitors will eat, stay and spend their money.
“To say we’re excited doesn’t put a stamp on it,” he said. “Dubuque has already been established as a tourist destination, but this elevates it to a whole other level.”