Posted: April 14, 2022 at 12:57 pm
DYERSVILLE, Iowa ― Six months after purchasing a controlling interest in Iowa’s iconic Field of Dreams Movie Site, the new owners of Go the Distance Baseball, LLC, today unveiled their dynamic vision to preserve the idyllic cornfield setting while building a premier youth baseball and softball destination for players, families, fans, and tourists from around the world. The master plan provides $80 million in private investment to expand the site and build nine new ballfields, dormitories for teams, and a hotel, among other phased improvements.
As the largest private investment ever in Dyersville and one of the largest in Dubuque County, the project will greatly enhance the facilities and amenities for visitors and area residents, while creating jobs and boosting economic development and tourism in Eastern Iowa.
Go the Distance Baseball is forging ahead with plans to create a youth baseball and softball oasis, while maintaining the property as a working farm, amid the natural beauty of the rural Iowa landscape. The development builds on the momentum of last summer’s dramatic MLB at Field of Dreams presented by GEICO and a 200 percent increase in the number of boys’ and girls’ baseball and softball teams registered for tournaments in Dyersville this summer. Company executives and area economic development leaders scheduled a press conference to discuss the plans at 11 a.m. CDT today at the Field of Dreams Movie Site in Dyersville.
“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,” said Frank Thomas, CEO of Go the Distance Baseball and a first-ballot member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
COO Dan Evans, a longtime executive for five MLB franchises, 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. Those images will never change.”
Upon adding nearly 100 acres to the original 190-acre footprint of the former Lansing-family farm and movie site, the master plan includes nine new baseball and softball fields for girls and boys, team dormitories, and a unique boutique hotel, all slated to be completed in phases by the end of 2023. Additional phases through 2025 include 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.
“Like baseball, successful real estate development requires preparation and hard work and then recognizing opportunity when it comes. The opportunity is here now to ensure the experience of the Field of Dreams endures for generations,” said Rick Heidner. He was an initial investor in the movie site with the late Denise Stillman, whose family sold controlling interest in Go the Distance Baseball after her dream of an MLB game at the site was realized last summer. Plans for a permanent stadium that would host college and high school tournaments and championships for men and women, are also being considered.
The phased development will support hundreds of construction jobs and, when fully completed, the private development alone will create approximately 170 new fulltime equivalent jobs, and events hosted at the site will result in more than $25 million in direct annual spending. Area residents may also benefit from member access to the indoor fieldhouse and training facility for year-round recreation.
In addition, the entity that manages Go the Distance Baseball – This is Heaven, LLC, is establishing a charitable organization, Field of Big Dreams, to inspire hope and provide life-changing opportunities for children with cancer and military veterans and their families, with the mission of providing resources and support to turn dreams into reality.
During the past six months, the Thomas/Heidner-led group has been working with public officials, community leaders, and non-profit economic development agencies to build a private/public partnership as the foundation of the development plan’s success. Officials of the Dyersville Economic Development Corp. and Travel Dubuque joined Thomas and his team in announcing Go the Distance Baseball’s plans.
“I am most pleased with the relationships we have developed with local residents and community leaders in Dyersville, Dubuque County, and the State of Iowa, and they are vital partners as the project rapidly continues to make progress,” Mr. Evans said.
“Preserving and enhancing one of Iowa’s top tourism destinations makes this project a win-win for the local and state economies,” said Keith Rahe, president and CEO of Travel Dubuque. “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.”
Jacque Rahe, executive director of Dyersville Economic Development Corp., said: “We are excited by the progress that is being made by owners who have deep roots in baseball and the financial resources to infuse private investment dollars that will turn long-held visions for the Field of Dreams into reality.”
The collaboration is already making demonstrable progress with the extension of municipal water and sewer service to the site and surrounding neighbors. In just the last month, the Dyersville City Council has awarded contracts for the first two phases of infrastructure work to provide water service by August.
Go the Distance Baseball is consulting with RDG Planning & Design, Origin Design, Conlon Construction Co., and Leopardo Companies to provide architectural, engineering, construction, and planning services for development of the master plan. Maintaining the property as a working farm and protecting farming on neighboring properties is an essential element of their planning. Mr. Heidner’s son, Collin, is working with the planning team on the project.
About Go the Distance Baseball, LLC
Go the Distance Baseball was established a decade ago to preserve the Field of Dreams Movie Site farm as a baseball shrine for future generations. The movie site, featuring rental and tours of the farmhouse, a souvenir shop, ballpark concessions, and “having a catch” on the field, is projected to attract approximately 300,000 visitors in 2022. An affiliate, All-Star Ballpark Heaven, in collaboration with Baseball Factory, operates youth baseball tournaments at City of Dyersville complexes.
Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta, James Earl Jones, and Amy Madigan, was nominated for Best Picture in 1990. Adapted from W. P. Kinsella’s 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, the 1989 film tells the story of Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella, a husband and father who is tending to his cornfield when he hears a mysterious voice intone, “If you build it, he will come.” Following his vision, Kinsella builds a baseball diamond in his field and is visited by ghosts of baseball legends. Ultimately, the attraction of baseball allows him to save the family farm.
Frank Thomas, nicknamed “the Big Hurt” for the damage he inflicted on opposing pitchers, was a five-time All-Star and consecutive two-time American League most valuable player while playing for the Chicago White Sox. He retired in 2009 and was elected on the first ballot to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.
Dan Evans, a Chicago native and longtime baseball executive, has served in front-office capacities with five MLB teams, including 20 seasons with the Chicago White Sox organization, rising to assistant general manager/director of baseball operations, before later being named executive vice president and general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2001 to 2004.
Rick Heidner is an avid baseball fan and Chicago area real estate developer and entrepreneur. He was an initial investor with Denise Stillman in the Field of Dreams Movie Site and is passionate about fulfilling her dream for the property.