Field of Dreams at 25

Next week, Monday specifically, those of us who want just one more game of catch with our fathers will pause to mark the 25th anniversary of the release of the film, Field of Dreams.

The movie about a farmer who plowed under his Iowa corn field to build a baseball diamond, opened in only 22 theaters on April 21, 1989.

It soon reached the top 10 and people were driving to Dyersville to stand on the diamond.

But this is reality and the two families who owned pieces of the land on which the movie set was built feuded with each other for years. One family wanted to make it more of an entertainment venue. The other wanted to keep its rural charm.

A plan to turn the area into a haven for youth baseball — 24 baseball and softball fields — has continued to thrust the dispute into the open, The Atlantic reports.

What the supporters of All-Star Ballpark Heaven thought would be a natural sell has, to their confusion and frustration, turned out to be anything but. In early community meetings, a contingent of local landowners raised loud concerns. They worried that the development would dramatically increase traffic on area roads, making it dangerous for children to play outside; that the light generated at the two dozen fields would be a nuisance for nearby homeowners; that runoff from the site would cause Hewitt Creek to overflow, flooding neighbors’ land. They had aesthetic worries, too. “If you change the site physically,” says Matt Mescher, the neighbor who once watered the outfield to keep the sod alive, “without that blue sky and cornfield backdrop, you’re going to be cutting your foot off.” At a lengthy and clamorous February 2012 city-council meeting, Rita and Al Ameskamp’s son Wayne made an impassioned plea for the town to halt the project. “Don’t let them build these baseball diamonds out in the country and take our farm ground out of production and ruin our piece of heaven,” he said. Lawsuits and social-media campaigns ensued. Without irony, a columnist for The Des Moines Register expressed concern that the development would facilitate the area’s “Disneyfication.”
Then came an election, this past November, in which proponents of the development were roundly defeated. All three of the city-council members up for reelection were thrown out of office—as was Mayor Heavens, a five-time incumbent who had served in the position since 2003. The Field of Dreams expansion, Heavens says, was “the issue of the election.” His successor, Alvin Haas, the co-owner of a local construction and environmental-consulting firm, won’t go quite that far, but he doesn’t discount its significance. In a town uniquely defined by its ersatz baseball park, how could he? “We didn’t campaign on it,” he says, “but you know, in the back of their heads, people were thinking about it.”

Some in the town are worried, in other words, that they won’t come. That they won’t come to sit in the bleachers, and sit in the shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon, and they won’t watch the game and feel as if they’ve dipped themselves in magic waters.

By sheer coincidence, GoPro released this video today which serves to remind us: Any field can be the field of dreams.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    It would be nice if this got the same level of attention as The Sandlot did last year. Infinitely better movie.

  • BJ

    I visited Dyersville several years ago, 1993. It was special then. My kids don’t watch baseball, I gave up on the sport around 1995. My kids, and I, spend our days dreaming of soccer pitches now.