How a movie about unity through baseball initially divided a small Iowa community.
The 1989 film “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner was filmed mostly on the Lansing family farm in Dyersville, Iowa. The film centers around a farmer named Ray Kinsella who hears a mysterious voice which commands him to turn part of his cornfield into a baseball diamond. Kinsella is given the vague message “If you build it he will come.” Taking the message as prophetic, he decides to build the ballpark. He is met with a lot of resistance from the community and even initially his family as the farm is struggling and can’t afford the loss of revenue. Removing part of his cornfield will hurt the already struggling family’s income, but Ray insists the baseball park will become a place where people will visit to watch ballgames and relive their lost hopes. The film ends with Ray being reunited with his deceased father and they share a game of catch, while thousands of people begin showing up at the field and the site becomes a place of healing and reunification.
The movie was an almost metaphysical parable of bonding which became the sleeper hit of the year. The film was shot on two farms the Lansing family farm which included the house and most of the ballpark and the left and center field which was part of the Ameskamp farmstead. The reason the producers had the diamond built on land covering two properties was that they wanted to capture the sunset for filming and lighting purposes. Aside from building working ballpark producers also made cosmetic changes to the farmhouse including a porch and picket fence.
After the filming, the producers left the ballfield and the Lansing family Taking the film’s message to heart decided to keep the grounds intact, confident that the area would become a landmark for those who loved the movie. The Ameskamp family chose to turn their portion of the ballpark back into farmland. Much like the film the site did, in fact, become a tourist destination and the family built a souvenir stand and offered tours of the farmhouse.
Eventually, the Ameskamp family also decided to open a souvenir shop and offer tours on their portion of the land. The Lansing property became ” The original Field of Dreams location’ while the competing property became the “Left and Center field of dreams” site. This division also affected the community of Dyersville many of who felt the different sections would clamp down tourism. Many also thought that the Ameskamps were trying to cash in on something the Lansing family had built, only becoming interested when the site became profitable. The two families also were often at odds regarding ideas to promote the area and plans for further commercialization.
Despite fears the bickering would adversely affect revenue, the site continued to grow in popularity. The park would host teams to play baseball and hosted a celebrity game for charity which featured several prominent retired players. The split eventually began to heal, and in 2011 the Ameskamp family sold their portion of the land to the Lansing family. The following year the Lansings also sold their land and house to the “Go the distance’ foundation which owns the property today.
The farmhouse is now rented out for overnight stays and is a trendy wedding location. There is a charge for touring the home although you can visit the grounds for free. It’s also worth noting Dyersville has the national Farm toy museum and has as the name implies a voluminous array of farm toys and model farmhouses.
Dyersville also has a very nice cathedral. Considering that the city is a bit of a drive. (It’s in Dubuque County Iowa and the nearest big cities are Dubuque or Waterloo), filling out your visit with the toy museum and the cathedral isn’t a bad idea. But do visit if you are a fan of the film, after all, they’ve built it, the rest is up to you.