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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Fighting Over the Field of Dreams

Its this heaven? No, its a zoning board hearing.

Filming ended in early August. Renamed Field of Dreams, the movie opened 25 years ago this month, in just 22 theaters nationwide. Mary Ungs-Sogaard, the publisher and general manager of the Dyersville Commercial, attended the premiere in Dubuque, as did others from the area. “Oh gosh, no, we didn’t think it would become big,” she says now, sheepishly. The “love letter to Iowa,” as Jarvis describes it, quickly reached the box-office top 10 and stayed there almost until the Fourth of July, ultimately earning more than $64 million domestically, along with nominations for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. To the shock of locals, it was a runaway hit.

For Hollywood, that was the end of the story. For the citizens of Dyersville, the opening credits were just starting to roll….

Denise Stillman had ambitious plans. In the land to the north and west of the movie site (which she promised would remain cost-free and undefiled), she proposed building what she called All-Star Ballpark Heaven: a giant, 24-field baseball-and-softball complex, loosely modeled after Cooperstown Dreams Park, a tournament camp near the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, in New York. When fully operational, she claimed, the facility—a kind of Cooperstown West—would be able to host 152 teams for 13 consecutive summer weeks….

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.”


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 05, 2014 at 10:32 PM | 0 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: baseball in film, field of dreams, iowa

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