Chicago White Sox season ticket holder buys 'Field of Dreams' property in Iowa
- 10/30/11, "New Dreams for Field," NY Times, Ken Belson
But on Sunday, Don and Becky Lansing, the owners of the 193-acre farm that includes the field, are to announce that they are selling their property to an investment group led by a couple from the Chicago area. The group plans to keep the field as it is but also to build a dozen other fields and an indoor center for youth baseball and softball tournaments.
For the Lansings, who have no children, it is a bittersweet transaction. The property has been in the family for more than a century, and Don grew up in the two-bedroom house featured in the movie. The couple tended the grounds, gave tours and sold souvenirs. They spurned offers to commercialize the site and tried to maintain their privacy even as each year 65,000 visitors from around the world pulled into their driveway.
But Don, 68, who retired from his job at John Deere, and Becky, 58, decided that they had done as much as they could. They listed the property in May 2010 for $5.4 million. Some local residents said they were asking too much, given the value of farmland and the weak economy. The Lansings wanted to sell only to someone who would preserve the authenticity of the field, which has been free to visitors....
After considering many offers and even inviting Costner to bid on the property, the Lansings settled on Mike and Denise Stillman, who assembled a group called Go the Distance Baseball L.L.C., borrowing a line from the movie. The parties did not disclose the sale price.
The Stillmans plan to leave the field much as it was when Ray Liotta portrayed Shoeless Joe Jackson there. The bleachers erected by Ray Kinsella, Costner’s character, will continue to stand near first base. The white house with the wraparound porch and the white picket fence will still overlook the field.
But on the property away from the movie site, the Stillmans plan to build a complex called All-Star Ballpark Heaven. Having watched their son and daughter play baseball and softball, they believe demand is strong for sports centers like those run by Cal Ripken Jr.
Specific plans are still being completed, but Denise Stillman said Roger Bossard, the head groundskeeper for the White Sox at U.S. 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 field, which is about three miles outside this 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. ...
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 $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.
“Before the movie, the only people who used to come out here were insurance or feed salesmen,” he said with a chuckle.
About 7,000 people showed up the first year, so Al Ameskamp restored his section of the outfield. The next year, twice as many people came to take in the site. Some brought their fathers’ old gloves and left them in the cornfield. Others exchanged wedding vows or scattered ashes of deceased relatives....Although the Ameskamps did not seem to mind the crowds on their property — a concert by Costner’s band drew thousands — the Lansings wanted the field left alone.
“My husband’s sense was to keep it small, simple and serene,” Becky Lansing said. “We have worked harder than anyone will ever know to keep it that way.”
Al Ameskamp died, and in 2007, the Lansings bought his 100 acres, consolidating the field and a farm that was originally owned by Don’s grandfather.
Based on the starry-eyed reactions of visitors, the Field of Dreams continues to cast a spell on baseball fans and movie buffs. More than two decades later, the film’s catchphrases have a place in American popular culture. One recent visitor wore a shirt depicting a beer keg with the words, “If you tap it, they will come.”
It was the Stillmans’ wholesome plan for the property, though, that attracted the Lansings, particularly Don, who was born there. He feels pride that his little slice of Iowa was chosen as a movie set, and he wants that to endure."...
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