At the end of a visit to Dyersville, Iowa, in the fall of 2022, I arrived at the Field of Dreams struck by a sense of surrealism as I walked past the field. It was the perfect ending to my first-ever visit, and despite my short stay, I had quickly become a fan of the town and the way it’s embracing big changes that are on the horizon.
The famous Field of Dreams, filming site of the iconic 1989 movie of the same name, hosted its first Major League Baseball (MLB) game in 2021 and a second in August 2022. Big plans are in the works near the site, including a boutique hotel, nine ballfields, dorms to host youth teams, an amphitheater, inclusive park, and more – with some developments slated for 2023 completion and the remainder for 2025, if not before.
Dan Evans, COO for Go The Distance Baseball LLC that owns the Field of Dreams Movie Site, says they want to “merely enhance it” while preserving what’s already there, with a strategically placed corn ridge and incline. The idea is to allow people who only want to see the movie site and not the new developments to still have the original experience of the movie.
The project is somewhat personal for Evans. Shortly before his mother passed away from cancer, she heard him talking about ownership of the site. “You gotta do that” she told him, though she hadn’t spoken in days. Then his mother revealed that she had once visited the movie site, a story she hadn’t shared with him before. Evans explains, “It’s in my heart. I love the place.”
My first stop: the National Farm Toy Museum, with its farm dioramas, activities for little ones, and rows upon rows of toy tractors of every brand and color. “I think the Dyersville area has a strong sense of community pride,” says Amanda Schwartz, manager of the museum. “We want to showcase all of the wonderful opportunities Iowa can provide.”
Jacque Rahe, executive director at Dyersville Economic Development Corporation that manages the museum and the If You Build It Exhibit, says, “[It’s] hard to imagine any of this would be possible in a town of 4,500 people without that magical Field of Dreams and the world stage we were able to be on.”
Rahe tells me they wanted to bring the If You Build It Exhibit to life so people who couldn’t be at the MLB games or visit the movie site could still get a feel for it. Clearly, she is proud of this newly opened attraction – and for good reason. I’m immediately enveloped with a sense of reverence for the movie, for what went into it and for what it’s meant to the town of Dyersville.
Not one to normally read every single sign in a museum, I’m compelled to take in every detail. It offers behind-the-scenes glimpses, such as the woman who lobbied for Dyersville as the filming location or how home plate on the field at the movie site is permanently secured to the ground to prevent it from being stolen.
Touring the exhibit, I feel like I’m part of Dyersville, in a sense, or at least celebrating its success and cheering its future. I shouldn’t be surprised by this, given that Dwier Brown, who played John Kinsella in the film, told me, “I really feel like it’s a little adopted hometown for me whenever I go back.”
In another part of the same historic building that houses the If You Build It Exhibit, I get a sneak peek of the renovations Brown is helping to lead. They’ve got big plans for the space, which is home to The Baseball Hall of Dreams and, eventually, batting cages, a baseball-themed restaurant, and the possibility of another baseball-themed museum. “We’re trying to celebrate the heart and soul of the game,” Brown says about The Baseball Hall of Dreams.
In the Dyersville area, outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the ample parks and trails like Candy Cane Park, Heritage Trail or New Wine Park.
Restaurants include the new 7 Hills West and the Dyersville Family Restaurant (“the DFR” to locals and highly recommended by Brown), which serves up good food with a neon homage reading “Is This HEAVEN? No, It’s IOWA!” Chad’s Pizza makes mouth-watering gluten-free pizza while Fuse offers trendy vibes with garage door entrances leading into an inviting, casual dining space. Fellow coffee lovers will want to visit Brew & Brew as well as Aslan’s Square, both welcoming with unique charm and a necessary jolt of caffeine.
At Savvy Salvage, a thrift and antique store, a friendly cat greets me with a meow and a request for pets. I’m happy to oblige, thinking of my own little furball at home. A boutique hotel is in the works near the Field of Dreams movie site, but my choices for the trip are the Comfort Inn®, Super 8 or an Airbnb. I opt for an Airbnb at ReSpa near the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, a Catholic church whose ornate interior echoes the grandeur of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.
Arriving at the Field of Dreams at the end of my stay, I walk into the house for a tour. The on-site supervisor reinforces Evans’ statement that the multimillion-dollar developments nearby won’t alter the vibe here, saying he and the other employees wouldn’t stand for it – they’d all walk away.
I reflect on the possibilities and exciting developments in the works for Dyersville as I head back home through the sunlit, misty Iowa hills. In just two short nights, I’ve grown to care for this place and even feel a bit protective of it.
Just like the immovable home plate at the Field of Dreams, I’m confident Dyersville will preserve its small-town charm while welcoming more visitors as a baseball mecca.