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Broken Field of Dreams in Iowa

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Field of Dreams

Since the 1989 release of Field of Dreams, there have been various efforts to monetize the Iowa cornfield used as a film set. The latest attempt, which includes 24 playing fields, an indy team and a $70M budget, appears to be in trouble as well.

Ever since the world saw Kevin Costner greet the likes of Ray Liotta and Charles Hoyes entering his baseball diamond from the surrounding cornfield, there have been attempts to generate revenue from the two-acre ballfield carved out of a real working farm near Dyersville, Iowa. The field was laid out on land overlapping two farmsteads, and in the early 1990s the two farming families creating competing tourist traps designed to bring the experience of playing baseball on the edge of a cornfield to a wider population. Both efforts failed: at the end of the day, there just weren't enough film buffs or baseball geeks who wanted to drive to rural Dyersville -- population 4,099 -- to pony up money to play baseball. Soon enough the competing organizations shut down save special events (and even those ended in 2009, when the 20th-anniversary celebration of the film's release was canceled), and while the diamond was maintained, the monetization ended.

Until 2012, when there emerged efforts to bring baseball back to the corn field. Not just a simple tourist attraction near Dubuque; rather, developer Denise Stillman presented a $70-million plan calling for 24 diamonds (including one large enough for professional baseball), support facilities and more. Now, we all know youth baseball is a big business -- in warmer climes, where the ballfields can be used year-round. Wade Boggs, listed as an investor, compared the site to the playing fields in the Cooperstown, N.Y. area; trust us, there are very few valid comparisons between the community hosting the National Baseball Hall of Fame and a cornfield in rural Iowa where the largest local town is Dubuque, some 20 miles away. Even in Florida, attracting investment for a large facility like this would be a challenge, and planning one basically in the middle of nowhere in Iowa would be even more of a challenge.

Which is why it looks like the latest attempt to monetize the Field of Dreams site has been running into roadblocks, as chronicled by KWWL:

In the face of a funding shortfall plus ongoing litigation with the site's neighbors, who are opposed to the facility's construction in their rural area, developers are coming up with Plan B for the summer of 2014.

Full plans for All-Star Ballpark Heaven have 24 fields, including one for a professional minor league team. To meet the 2014 deadline of the Field of Dreams film's 25th anniversary, developer Denise Stillman scaled back the first phase of the project to 12 fields. Later this summer, that plan dropped to six.

Now, Stillman said, litigation and a lack of full funds has made developers unsure of whether they can promise teams a place to play in Dyersville this upcoming season.

Realistically, 2014 will be a wash. It's hard to see any sort of complex opening for next spring when financing hasn't been arranged in October, never mind no start to construction or ownership (Indeed, the new Northern League has one team and no finished ballparks). Tournaments booked for Dyersville in summer 2014 have already been moved to Dubuque, and litigation initiated by neighbors further complicates things. And organizers are learning something many in baseball already know: if you build it; they won't necessarily come.

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