'Field of Dreams' is 25-year dream for Dyersville - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

'Field of Dreams' is 25-year dream for Dyersville

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DYERSVILLE (KWWL) -

Since the film "Field of Dreams" premiered in 1989, the movie site -- located just four miles from downtown Dyersville -- has drawn hundreds of thousands of baseball fans and movie-lovers from all over the world.

This week marks 25 years since the debut of the movie, much of which was filmed in Dyersville and throughout Dubuque County. Since its release, this timeless story of baseball and the special bond between a father and son has become an American classic.

"If you build it, they will come."

That's more than just a famous line from the "Field of Dreams." To the city of Dyersville, it's a reality.

"This has been kind of one of those gifts that has just fallen into our laps," said Jacque Rahe, executive director of the Dyersville Economic Development Corporation.

Rahe moved to Dyersville in 1989 and started working for its Chamber of Commerce shortly after Field of Dreams premiered.

"I would pull up to work at eight o'clock in the morning, and there'd be a line outside the door of tourists waiting to find directions to the Field of Dreams or buy a postcard or something like that," Rahe said.

Even though it's a city of less than 5,000 people, Dyersville was no stranger to visitors. Before being home to the Field of Dreams movie site, Dyersville has been home to the National Farm Toy Museum and the historic St. Francis Xavier Basilica.

"The city of Dyersville was always known as the Farm Toy Capital of the World," Rahe said, "with the National Farm Toy Show ... bringing in 14,000, 15,000 people on that weekend."

But any number of visitors those attractions brought could not compare to the unprecedented draw of the Field of Dreams.

Matt Mescher grew up in Dyersville and has seen the influx of tourism the Field of Dreams has brought to his hometown over the years.

"Sixty-five thousand visitors a year," Mescher said, "And 99 percent of them come right through Dyersville and spend money at hotels, restaurants, gas stations, what have you."

He remembers the palpable excitement around town during the filming of the movie.

"I think at that time everybody thought, well, this was just something that was going to pass," Mescher said. "No one ever thought it'd be around yet at this time."

"It has meant a great deal to our community in that we were able to build a couple hotels out here, some restaurants, several shopping areas," Rahe said.

The Field saw a lull in visitors during the recession, but interest picked back up in 2011, when Chicago-based developer Denise Stillman announced her plans to buy the Field of Dreams, which had been on the market for several years prior to that.

Stillman plans to build a 24-field youth baseball and softball tournament complex on the land adjacent to the existing field, with phase one now set for completion in 2015. Phase one includes just six of the 24 fields.

Rahe said she praises the project for, "the jobs that it could create, the capital investment, the local option sales tax revenue, the property tax increases."

Mescher, however, isn't so sure. He and some neighbors formed the Residential and Agricultural Advisory Committee, which would like to see the complex built elsewhere, preserving the peace and quiet of the countryside.

The RAAC is suing the City of Dyersville for what they say is improper zoning of the area around the Field of Dreams, making way for Stillman's development.

"I don't think anybody opposes baseball. It's just this location," Mescher said. "We feel that this is just misplaced and we feel that the state's requirements on zoning and land use would agree with that."

No court date has yet been set.

Whatever the future holds, Stillman's plans for the complex include keeping the movie site exactly as it is, which is free and open to the public.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Field of Dreams, actor Kevin Costner, who starred in the movie, will return to Dyersville for an event on the Friday and Saturday of Father's Day weekend.

He'll be joined by fellow cast members, including Dwier Brown, the actor who played Costner's character's father. NBC's Matt Lauer and Bob Costas will also participate in the 25th anniversary celebration in Dyersville.

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