New dream for field fuels debate

New dream for field fuels debate
In this July 14, 2004, photo, people enjoy the Field of Dreams baseball field in rural Dyersville, Iowa. The town is considering a $38 million plan to turn the farmland around the famous cornfield diamond into a marquee destination for traveling youth baseball teams. While the plan could provide an economic jolt to the region, it also has unleashed an emotional battle as the town of 4,000 tries to decide if they should build it. (AP Photo/Dubuque Telegraph Herald, Dave Kettering) MAGS OUT

The already famous "Field of Dreams" — an Iowa cornfield that was brought to life as a baseball diamond in a 1989 film — may be turned into one of the nation's largest youth baseball and training complexes if an Illinois developer gets his way.

Mike Stillman, a lawyer, reportedly got the idea for the massive $38 million proposed development when he stopped there while driving home from a Minnesota Twins game. The development, though, has raised the ire of neighbors as well as some residents of nearby Dyersville, a town of 4,000 some 30 miles west of Dubuque.

According to the Associated Press, Stillman and his wife, Denise, who watched the "Field of Dreams" on one of their first dates, are seeking to buy the farmhouse and baseball field featured in the film, along with surrounding land. Their plan is to build the " All-Star Ballpark Heaven ," a complex of 24 baseball and softball diamonds and an indoor training facility that would draw teams from all around to compete in major tournaments.

While the AP notes that the project could breathe new life into Dyersville's most valuable asset, it has unleashed fierce emotions that have pitted neighbors against each other and raised difficult questions for town leaders.

They are debating whether the city should extend water and sewer service to make the project viable and wondering whether the project would attract enough people to make it succeed.


The background

The movie was about a farmer who builds a baseball field that attracts the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and other White Sox players who were banned for throwing the 1919 World Series.

Since then, the farm has attracted a stream of visitors despite few amenities, a house that is usually closed and a well-kept baseball field surrounded by corn.

One of the most popular activities is a simple game of catch at the site — Stillman and his son played catch there to spark his interest.

Tourism began to drop off a few years ago, however, and the owners — Don and Becky Lansing — have put the farm up for sale. As planned, the proposed complex would join only a handful of such venues in the United States, including one near the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., AP reports.

The site would create hundreds of jobs in restaurants, lodging and recreation in a six-county region, according to a study commissioned by the developers. It's estimated that up to 1,500 families of players ages 8 through 14 would trek to the site weekly for camps and tournaments, said the study.

Many neighbors are skeptical about the figures and some employers wonder about the impact on the area's labor pool. There are other hurdles confronting the Stillmans. They are lobbying for a bill to allow the site to keep the sales tax charged on merchandise for 10 years — estimated at up to $16 million.

Some lawmakers also oppose the plan.


There's another obstacle involving Dyersville. The city would have to annex and rezone the land involved and build water and sewer lines to the site, at a cost of some $7 million.

At this point, the jury is still out whether this new dream for the "Field of Dreams" will succeed.

Here and there

• The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland has opened the world's most comprehensive collection of items from the Beatles as part of the first redesign in the facility's 15-year history.

The exhibit features nearly 70 items, including several that are being displayed for the first time, such as Paul McCartney's handwritten arrangement for the song "Birthday."

Visitors also can see guitars played by John Lennon and George Harrison, the logo drum head from the kit that Ringo Starr used on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February 1964 and notable clothing worn by each group member on tour or on film.

• International tourists continue to spend record amounts in the U.S. and are on pace to top the previous annual high mark for tourism expenditures, set in 2008.

The U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism says foreign visitors spent $127 billion in the U.S. in the first 10 months of 2011. Meanwhile, the total spent by Americans traveling abroad reached $91.9 billion during the same time period.

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