‘Enormous potential’: HOF’er Thomas heads venture buying Field of Dreams, to serve as CEO

DYERSVILLE, Iowa — A venture headed by a baseball Hall of Famer has purchased a controlling stake in the company that preserves the iconic Field of Dreams site in Dyersville.

That Hall of Famer, Chicago White Sox great Frank Thomas, now will serve as the CEO of Go the Distance Baseball after This is Heaven LLC purchased all of the interests in Go the Distance Baseball owned by the Denise M. Stillman Trust, according to an announcement made Thursday morning. Former Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager Dan Evans will serve as chief operating officer of Go The Distance Baseball.

Thomas told the media Thursday that his vision for the site includes adding youth baseball fields and hosting more Major League Baseball games in the future.

“We want to lead future development and expand to make this a unique baseball experience,” Thomas said. “… There is enormous potential to expand here. This is a win-win for everyone.”

This is Heaven LLC is a venture between Thomas and Chicago-area real estate developer and entrepreneur Rick Heidner. The latter was an initial investor in Go the Distance Baseball and retains his original minority investment.

Thomas added that the deal was closed “not long ago,” but the group wanted to start making plans right away. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Stillman headed Go the Distance Baseball when it bought the field, the location of the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams,” and the adjacent Lansing family farm in 2011. The site of about 190 acres includes a working cornfield. She died in 2018.

The company also has ownership of All-Star Ballpark Heaven, which operates youth baseball tournaments in Dyersville.

The site was thrust into the national spotlight in August when it hosted a regular-season game between the White Sox and New York Yankees that was watched by 5.9 million viewers — the most for any MLB regular-season telecast in 16 years. A second MLB game, which would again take place at a temporary stadium adjacent to the iconic site, is planned for Aug. 11 between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds.

Speaking to the Telegraph Herald on Thursday, Thomas said he would love to see more MLB teams and Hall of Famers play at the Field of Dreams.

“I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but yes, in the future, we would love to have permanent stands and make this a destination for MLB every season,” he said.

However, he noted that the first priority is bringing water and sewer service to the site.

“We got to get that done,” Thomas said. “No more port-a-potties. I’ve been here many times, and I’m like, ‘I’m sorry — I can’t deal with the port-a-potties.’ So, that’s the first thing on our agenda.”

The City of Dyersville was awarded a $1.5 million federal grant in July that would fund these types of infrastructure projects at the site.

Thomas told the TH that he also aims to add eight to 12 youth baseball fields, potentially behind where the iconic farmhouse sits on the site.

“A lot of people talk about Little League, but I kind of want to focus here on 13- to 16-year-olds,” he said. “I think there’s not enough focus on that in the country, and then, you get that scouting type of thing. I want scouts out here. I want it to be the Field of Dreams. I want someone to get discovered here.”

During Thursday’s press conference, Thomas also stressed the importance of keeping the original Field of Dreams field as is.

“This is preserved,” he said, gesturing to the field on which a few families were playing catch.

Thomas also voiced his intention to be at the Field of Dreams as often as possible as the venture moves forward, but he noted that Evans will be a very familiar face on the site from now on. Evans previously served as a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball.

“I wouldn’t trade my corner office for anything,” Evans said at the press conference.

Heidner said he was very grateful to be part of continuing Stillman’s vision for expanding the site, specifically thanking her husband, Tom Mietzel, trustee of the Denise M. Stillman Trust.

“Nothing makes me happier than everyone coming together in this,” Heidner said.

Dyersville Mayor Jim Heavens said he remembered meeting Stillman for lunch a decade ago to hear about her purchase of the Field of Dreams and her hopes for the property.

“This thing feels full circle now, and what a good thing to happen,” he said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds also issued a statement in response to the announcement, saying she wanted “to thank Frank Thomas for his investment in Iowa.”

“Now, with Frank’s vision, new leadership and strong state and local partnerships, I’m confident that the Field of Dreams will become a world-class attraction and further expand economic development opportunities for Dyersville, its surrounding communities and our state as a whole,” Reynolds also said in the statement. “The State of Iowa is committed to the continued success of this site, and I look forward to working with Frank and his team soon.”