Chicago area couple buy ‘Field of Dreams’ site
By SANDRA GUY email@example.com October 31, 2011 12:30PM
FIELD OF DREAMS
Updated: October 31, 2011 1:44PM
An investor group led by Oak Lawn couple Mike and Denise Stillman is buying the Iowa farm that played a starring role in the baseball nostalgia movie “Field of Dreams.”
The Stillmans and the other investors, operating as Go the Distance Baseball LLC, announced Sunday they have signed a deal to buy the movie site just outside of Dyersville, Iowa, including the baseball diamond, the house with the familiar front porch, six outbuildings and a 193-acre parcel.
On the parcel, the new owners will develop “All-Star Ballpark Heaven,” a premier baseball and softball tournament complex designed for teams with players ages 18 and under. The complex will feature more than 12 state-of-the-art fields and an indoor training dome where players will work on their skills.
The new owners have hired Chicago White Sox “sod father” and chief groundskeeper Roger Bossard to design the ball fields to Major League Baseball quality.
The complex is expected to open in 2014.
Terms of the land deal are confidential. The Field of Dreams site attracts 65,000 visitors a year, sells souvenirs and hosts occasional events, but has no neon signs, billboards or highway signposts and employs one full-time and four seasonal workers.
Mike Stillman, 42, a lifelong Oak Lawn resident and Chicago lawyer who serves as pitching coach for his son’s Palos Stampede traveling baseball team, said, “We’re very excited and passionate about this. It will be quite a tourist destination and a place for kids to play.
“We’ve always thought that the Midwest never had a great site for the type of complex that hosted [youth] travel baseball and competitive play,” Stillman said. “Everyone goes to Cooperstown, N.Y., and other places.”
Stillman learned from a fellow coach that the field was for sale after Stillman talked about how much he and his son enjoyed visiting the field last summer and throwing catch in the outfield.
“The experience was uncomparable,” said Stillman, a graduate of Brother Rice High School who serves on the school’s board of trustees.
“Our hopes and dreams are that we’ll be able to make this beautiful site available to boys and girls and young men and women in the Midwest and nationwide who have no place to play,” he said. The Stillmans will continue to live in Oak Lawn.
Said Denise Stillman: “We will keep the movie site as pristine as we can. That’s the magic of the place. We want to keep the memories of it like in the movies.”
“We will work to keep the Field as a very affordable family tourist destination,” she said.
In fact, “Field of Dreams” was one of the first movies that the Stillmans rented and watched together while they were dating as students at Bradley University in Peoria.
“We used to play the soundtrack and study together,” Denise said.
The field’s owners, Don and Becky Lansing, put the field up for sale for $5.4 million on May 13, 2010, after deciding they wanted it to grow under a new generation’s leadership.
The field has been in the Lansing family for 105 years.
It previously operated as a chicken and a dairy farm, and since Don Lansing, 69, bought it from his parents 32 years ago, as a crop farm of feed corn and soybeans.
“We’re 22 years older than when the movie came out. We have no children. The field of dreams has been our child,” said Becky Lansing, 58. “We have nurtured, fed, protected and loved this thing. We have felt it’s time for the farm to move into a new chapter — to continue to grow to be its highest and best self.”