Specific plans are still being completed, but Denise Stillman said Roger Bossard, the head groundskeeper for the White Sox at US Cellular Field, who is also known as the Sod Father, would help design the fields, including several, they hope, that replicate major league ballparks. She expects the complex to open in 2014, but said it was too early to say how much the project would cost or how many people would be employed there. Those who work at the movie site will keep their jobs.
The Stillmans, who will not live on the property, have been talking to the Lansings since July last year. Mike, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side, is a lawyer and a White Sox season-ticket holder. Denise is a business consultant who specializes in marketing. They met while attending Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, and one of the first movies they saw together was Field of Dreams.
“It has this sort of bucolic, magical sense to it,” Denise said of the film, which was nominated for the Academy Award for best picture. “It seems to transport you. It has a certain sensibility about it that we’d like to raise more.”
The field, which is about 4.8km outside Dyersville, a town of 4,000, is also a bundle of contradictions. It is as real as any diamond in the world, except for the cornstalks that double as an outfield fence, but it was built by a movie studio in a few days for a film based on a fictional story about players from 70 years earlier.
The Field of Dreams has become a tourist attraction in the most unassuming way. Other than its Web site and a few brochures, it is barely promoted. No billboards alert drivers to turn off the highway; only a few signs point the way to the farm. The Lansings placed a donation box near the guest book at the backstop. Shirts and other souvenirs are for sale, but there are no neon signs or corporate come-ons. The site is closed in the evenings and in the winter.
“We’re a sleepy little farm town without it,” said Mike English, a councilman and pub owner. “It was a big surprise to everyone that people started showing up. But I don’t see it waning. As long as people watch baseball, they will come.”
After the movie, which was filmed in the summer of 1988, few local residents had any idea what was to come. The overhead power line running from third base to right field and beyond, which had been rerouted during filming, was put back. Al and Rita Ameskamp, who owned the land in left and center field, replanted corn there. Don Lansing left his portion of the diamond intact so friends and family could use it for a few years.
Within weeks of the movie’s release the next spring, people started arriving. One stranger traveling cross-country gave Don Lansing an old New York Giants cap, which he has kept. When he left for work in the morning, he would leave some buttons that the filmmakers had made for the extras, and they were gone when he returned. He offered T-shirts, with a coffee can and a sign asking for US$5. The shirts sold out.
He moved a trailer near the house and converted it into a shop. His sister, Betty, started designing T-shirts. Don learned how to maintain the field.