DYERSVILLE, Iowa — Those at the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville on Wednesday could not tell that construction crews already were moving tons of dirt 70 acres to the north, making way for nine new ballfields.
Work is underway on $80 million worth of development at the iconic property, which is owned by Go the Distance Baseball. While work kicked off Sept. 6, an official groundbreaking for the project — dubbed “Project Heaven” — was held Wednesday afternoon.
“Six months ago, we shared our concept and vision for the property, and we’ve been working hard to achieve our dreams,” said Frank Thomas, Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and Go the Distance Baseball CEO. “We can’t wait to see hundreds of youth teams play on our fields and hit home runs into the corn. … We are building it so people will come.”
The project will bring to life a recreational sports complex 70 acres north of the movie site. It will feature nine new ballfields, team dormitories, a fieldhouse and jogging trails.
Developments also will include a 104-room boutique hotel across Lansing Road from the Field of Dreams, as well as an RV park and outdoor amphitheater near the movie site.
In addition to “Project Heaven,” a permanent, 3,000-seat stadium around the Major League Baseball field adjacent to the movie site is also in the works.
Go the Distance Baseball Chief Operating Officer Dan Evans stressed that none of the work on “Project Heaven” will impact the original movie site. A range of 70 to 85 acres separates the movie site from work currently being done for the sports complex to the north.
“We won’t compromise the integrity of the field,” he said. “We’re going to enhance the property. People on the field right now, they don’t see any of this (construction), and they never will.”
Evans said the overall project will be completed in phases, with a goal of all elements being completed by 2025.
However, he said, the new ballfields are the first priority, with a plan to have teams playing on them by the summer of 2023. There will be two grass fields and seven synthetic turf fields, which will be accessible from a yet-to-be-built access road off of Dyersville East Road.
“We started early to assure that we can play baseball and softball next summer,” he said.
The development comes almost exactly a year after new leadership took over Go the Distance Baseball.
It was announced on Sept. 30, 2021, that This is Heaven LLC — a venture headed by Thomas and real estate developer and entrepreneur Rick Heidner — purchased all of the interest in Go the Distance Baseball owned by the Denise M. Stillman Trust.
Stillman, who previously owned and operated Go the Distance Baseball, announced plans in 2012 for 24 new ballfields at the site, among other amenities. But those plans had not come to fruition at the time of Stillman’s death in 2018.
Officials who spoke at Wednesday’s groundbreaking all remarked on the success and progress that has been made over the past year.
“We’re less than a year since the purchase of Go the Distance Baseball, and we’ve had tremendous, tremendous success,” Heidner said. “…We’re full steam ahead.”
Don and Becky Lansing, who previously owned the Field of Dreams site, were also in attendance to see the project kick off. The couple were living on the farm when movie producers asked for it to be used as the setting for the 1989 “Field of Dreams” movie.
“We’re real excited to see it all happen,” Don Lansing told the Telegraph Herald. “It’s a dream developing and coming true.”
Becky Lansing said she felt emotional about the day’s events, adding that she did not expect to be part of the ceremonial shoveling of dirt as part of the groundbreaking.
“It takes a village,” she said. “Donny and I were not lucky enough to put together a village back in the day. To see the village and how it’s going to grow in the years ahead, it’s amazing.”