In the movie Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella, an Iowa farmer played by Kevin Costner, hears a voice tell him, “If you build it, he will come” while he walks through his cornfields one night.
Kinsella eventually built a baseball diamond in his cornfield, and it attracted the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other seven Chicago White Sox players who were banned from Major League Baseball (MLB) for throwing the 1919 World Series. More importantly, it also attracted the ghost of Ray’s dad for a much-needed reunion.
Since then, the Field of Dreams movie site has become a major tourist attraction, drawing people from around the world who travel to Iowa each year to see the baseball field, farmhouse, and cornfield.
Now, the site’s new owners, led by Baseball Hall of Fame member Frank Thomas, have announced a plan to use $80 million in private investment to build youth baseball and softball fields so the site can become a major destination for youth baseball and softball tournaments. In addition to the new fields, the plan calls for ultimately building dormitories for teams, a hotel, and other developments.
“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,” Frank Thomas, CEO of Go the Distance Baseball, said in a statement.
Fans of the site who are worried about overdevelopment can rest easy, Dan Evans, a long-time executive for five MLB franchises and COO of Go the Distance Baseball, said.
“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 cornfields,” Evans said. “Those images will never change.”
Growing Popularity, And Demand
In 2021, the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees played an MLB game in a specially constructed stadium near the Field of Dreams baseball diamond. This year, the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds will play a game there as well.
After the game last year, FOX Sports announced that the game was the most-watched regular season baseball game in 16 years, according to The Des Moines Register. An estimated 5.9 million people tuned in.
In the meantime, the nearby area has seen a dramatic spike in demand as a location for youth baseball and softball tournaments. Indeed, coming out of COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions, there has been a 200 percent increase in the number of boys’ and girls’ baseball and softball teams registered for tournaments in Dyersville, Iowa, this summer, according to Go the Distance Baseball.
How The Development Will Work
After adding nearly 100 acres to the current 190-acre site, the phased plan calls for building nine new baseball and softball fields for girls and boys, team dormitories, and a “boutique” hotel. The development will be completed in phases, and is expected to be finished by the end of 2023, Go the Distance Baseball projects.
There are additional plans as well. That development, planned through 2025, includes 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 through the cornfields.
Finally, plans for a permanent stadium to host MLB games, as well as college and high school tournaments and championships for men and women, are also underway.
The development is expected to support hundreds of construction jobs. When finished, it is projected to create approximately 170 new full-time jobs, and events hosted at the site are projected to draw more than $25 million in direct annual spending, according to Go the Distance Baseball.
“Preserving and enhancing one of Iowa’s top tourism destinations makes this project a win-win for the local and state economies,” Keith Rahe, president and CEO of Travel Dubuque, said. “Emerging from the pandemic, the multi-billion-dollar youth sports industry has shown its resilience and will continue to grow, so these plans will ensure that the movie site’s place in the lore of America’s pastime is secure for future generations.”
Now that baseball and the movie Field of Dreams are on your mind, be sure to read: