CHICAGO – They bought it, and now they hope even more people will come.
An investor group led by an Illinois couple has completed its purchase of the famed “Field of Dreams” movie site in Iowa with plans to preserve it and build an adjacent baseball training and tournament complex. The 193-acre property includes the field and farmhouse made famous in the 1989 Kevin Costner baseball classic.
Go the Distance Baseball LLC, which counts baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs among its investors, closed on the Dyersville, Iowa, property last week for $3.4 million plus interest in a controversial deal that was 2.5 years in the making.
“We’ve got that big milestone under our belt now, and we’re just getting into the business of opening the (site),” said Denise Stillman, president and CEO of Go the Distance. She and her husband, Mike, began their pursuit of the land, near Dubuque, in July 2010.
The Stillmans, of Oak Lawn, Ill., have said they saw “Field of Dreams” on one of their first dates and decided to try to buy the property shortly after they learned it was for sale.
“I’m just really excited about what lies ahead,” Denise Stillman said Wednesday. “We’ve got so much work to do to get the field ready to open again April 1. That’s when the tourist site opens.”
All-Star Ballpark Heaven is scheduled to open with 12 fields and 60 team “clubhouses” for lodging in 2014, before doubling the number of each by 2017. Once complete, the complex will also include a community center, banquet facilities and an auditorium, among other amenities, according to Go the Distance. Construction is to begin this spring.
“My family’s farm has been part of the landscape for more than a century,” seller Don Lansing said in a news release announcing the deal’s completion. “I have been honored to care for it my entire life and know the Stillmans and their group will care for the movie site like I did.”
Lansing grew up in the farmhouse shown in the film. He and his wife, Becky, will continue to work with the new owners, such as by helping maintain the property and by leading tours, Denise Stillman said.
The deal was announced Oct. 30, 2011, pending investor support, tax incentives and zoning approval, but it was dogged by claims from nearby landowners that the complex would snarl traffic and worsen flooding and that the town acted inappropriately in granting a zoning change.
The site attracts an estimated 65,000 visitors per year.