Hot on the heels of a private firm announcing an $80 million expansion at the Field of Dreams movie site comes another potential game-changer for the small east-central Iowa city of Dyersville.
The Des Moines Register reports that “a new nonprofit entity is raising funds to construct a $50 million permanent stadium around the baseball diamond in Dyersville that Major League Baseball built for the first professional game held there last year.”
According to the paper:
Travel Dubuque unveiled plans for the stadium … to the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors, which voted to allocate $5 million of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act funding for the project. The Dyersville City Council also approved $1 million in aid last week.
The 3,000-seat stadium is in addition to a plan that Go the Distance, owner and operator of the site, announced last month. The earlier plan calls for spending $80 million in private funding to build youth baseball and softball fields, team dormitories and a hotel, among other improvements, surrounding the movie site.
“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to create something like this,” said Keith Rahe, president and CEO of Travel Dubuque, which has partnered with the City of Dyersville, the Dyersville Economic Development Corp., Dubuque County and Go the Distance Baseball to form the new nonprofit — fittingly called This Is Iowa Ballpark Inc. “What we could create out there is a legacy for everyone. It’s generational change. And it’s something that all of Iowa could be proud of.”
The nonprofit’s name is a likely nod to one of the most famous lines in the 1989 film. When Kevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, meets the ghost of his father, John Kinsella, on the ballfield Ray built in the middle of a cornfield, John asks his son “Is this heaven?” Ray’s brilliant two-word response: “It’s Iowa.”
Plans call for This Is Iowa Ballpark Inc. to apply for a grant through Destination Iowa, a new $100 million program established to distribute a portion of the state’s COVID-19 relief funding to projects that will — in the words of Gov. Kim Reynolds — “raise the positive profile of our state well beyond our borders.”
The Field of Dreams project certainly will do all that, and without affecting the original movie site. The proposed permanent addition to the 190-acre area would include a concessions area, suites, team clubhouses and meeting rooms. Rahe told the Register he expects the stadium to be a year-round draw for college, high school and international teams, as well as corporate events, festivals and camps.
“That’s a key element for us, that different things within the stadium would make it a year-round destination,” Rahe said. “We really feel like the interest in it is unreal. With Major League Baseball playing a game at the field, people want to go there and just see it. And we feel the stadium itself will become a destination. We’re building this for all the other activities we can do there.”
Field of Dreams was made for $15 million and initially opened in only 22 theaters around the country in April 1989; it went on to gross nearly $85 million at the box office. The original movie site is a perennial tourist attraction, a must-stop on Midwest family road trips.
Additional interest in the original film also is being revived via an upcoming seven-part television series that will serve as a prequel to Field of Dreams and be streamed on Peacock next year.
While the series won’t be filmed in Dyersville, where Major League Baseball will return Aug. 11 when the Cincinnati Reds take on the Chicago Cubs, a new “diamond in the rough” will be created in the Des Moines area, according to The Gazette of Cedar Rapids. Filming is expected to take place in locations throughout Iowa. Mike Schur, whose credits include The Office, will be co-executive producer and writer of the new series, and a crew of about 120 will temporarily call Iowa home this summer.
“We’re just so appreciative that the producers realized the importance of Iowa, and how it’s a character in the story. They really wanted to be authentic with their filmmaking here, so I totally support that. And I was so relieved, because you know they could shoot this anywhere, but they really made the creative decision to come here,” Liz Gilman, film commissioner with Produce Iowa-State Office of Media Production, told The Gazette. “Also, once they leave, as we saw with the original film that was 34 years ago, we’re still making money off that original filming that happened here. The economic impact is huge, and it really has trickled down to a lot of different Iowans over the years.”