“If you build it, he will come.” The mysterious voice that novice farmer Ray Kinsella (excellently portrayed by Kevin Costner) hears one evening while walking through his cornfield triggers the narrative of the cult classic movie Field of Dreams.
Today, the story about a man who impulsively followed the advice of the ominous voice to build a baseball field on his farm still remains one of the most inspiring tales in film history.
This fantasy sports drama that used baseball as an allegory about making amends with your past is at the same time a love letter to the sport and a nostalgic trip down memory lane.
And when at the end of the film baseball fans from all over America are shown arriving at the stadium to be witnesses of a magical match, no one expected the thing that happened after.
Since the 1989 movie’s release, about 65,000 people per year have stepped on the Field of Dreams. The baseball diamond soon became a huge tourist attraction and a true pop culture phenomenon.
With the exception of a few location shots in Fenway Park, Boston, almost all of the film was shot in and around Dubuque County, Iowa. The persistence of the Iowa Film Board and a photo delivered to the producers by Sue Riedel, who scouted the location, convinced the studio to make the picture on an old farm near Dyersville, Iowa.
The farm was owned by the Lansing family and it had all the right features to be the film’s main story spot. But after filming began, for the sake of authenticity and story progression, the studio and the filmmakers decided to build a real baseball field on the farm.
Most of the field was on the farm owned by the Lansing Family, including the diamond and the adjacent house. The rest of it, the left and center field, were made on a next door farm owned by the Ameskamp family. The choice for the field to occupy two adjacent farms was a result of the filmmakers’ desire to have all the sunset shots be unrestrained and natural.
After filming wrapped, the baseball field that was created specifically for the movie was left behind. The Lansings kept their portion of the field intact, adding a small hut so visitors could buy souvenirs. The Ameskamp family decided to return to farming, but after seeing how many people started to visit the site, they restored the rest of the field and opened their own souvenir shop.
But, throughout the years, the place wasn’t just a cherished symbol but became an epicenter of continual disputes, getting bigger and bigger as the years passed.
The two owners have been at odds regarding commercialization of the site because the Lansing family was welcoming tourists free of charge. And until August 2007, they ran separate tourist facilities when Rita Ameskamp sold her portion of the baseball field to Don and Becky Lansing.
In mid-May 2010, after years of running the Field of Dreams, the family put the land, including a two-bedroom house, on the market for $5.4 million. Allegedly, neither Kevin Costner or Ray Liotta wanted to buy out the property.
Finally, on 30 October 2011, a sale was agreed upon and a company behind Ballpark Heaven called Go the Distance Baseball now owns the 193-acre property. They have successfully preserved and run the site since 28 December 2012.
Unfortunately, the zoning areas still remain in dispute. The most recent dispute occurred when an Illinois couple pushed for a plan to develop the farm around the field into a massive $74 million baseball and softball complex for traveling youth tournament teams. This sparked feuds, public relations battles, and lawsuits between neighbors and against the city of Dyersville.