Monthly Archives: March 2013

An Interview with Denise Stillman About the Field of Dreams project

Since 1989 people have been traveling to Dyersville to visit the site where Field of Dreams was filmed. Soon people from all over the world will travel to Dyersville hoping not only to see Ghost Players emerge from a cornfield, but also to play in baseball and softball tournaments.

All Star Ballpark Heaven will open in 2014 and will quickly become a top destination for baseball and softball teams. Part-owner Denise Stillman was nice enough to talk to Realtor Theresa Neuhaus about the project and what it will mean to Dyersville.

How did this project begin? Back in July of 2010 my husband told me that the Field of Dreams Denise_Stillman_pearl_blue_headshotmovie site was for sale. That night I told him that we should buy it with other investors and create a Cooperstown-like facility right next to the Field of Dreams Movie Site. It would keep the tourist site open and bring more people to the famous ball field through tournaments on the land adjacent to it. It was as simple as that. With my background as a baseball mom, in marketing and in real estate I thought we might just make this work. And, now we are moving down that path.

Were you a fan of the film? Yes, but what drew me to this project was the ability to solve a problem. And, the problem is that most tournament facilities that serve this market are on the East Coast. And, none of them promote girls softball on a national level, which is growing and deserving of a higher level of attention. So, the problem is that for many ball players that it’s very hard for them to travel long distances to these national tournaments. I wanted to create a facility in the heart of America and right next to the Movie Site, what many perceive to be baseball holy ground. This will reduce the travel time for more than 70,000 travel teams who want to play baseball or softball. And we’re also creating a wonderful facility that is the step above the other facilities out there in terms of amenities and level of service. Dyersville will be the proud home of the best youth baseball and softball tournament facility in the nation. Dyersville is already known for its baseball movie heritage and this new facility builds on that reputation.

What is your vision of the All-Star Ballpark Heaven and will it evolve in the future? What it’s going to look and feel like is that Dyersville will become a national destination for youth baseball and softball. We also are looking to draw players from Japan, China, and from the Caribbean who are learning more and more about American baseball and bring them into the sport. One of the unique aspects of our project is our goal  to create a national destination for softball. Girls who play softball have played in smaller, but very well run facilities, but they don’t have access to something like Cooperstown facilities. Softball players don’t have that yet.

What is the time frame for this? We are scheduled to break ground sometime in May after we secure all the necessary approvals and our goal is to open the facility for summer tournaments in 2014.

When will the indoor training facility open and will it be available to the general public? The first phase of the project will be the baseball and softball facilities and housing for 72 teams of coaches and athletes and umpires. The second phase will include the indoor training facility, which will be open to the public. And, the baseball games themselves will be open to the public as well for a nominal 3 dollar ticket.

How many teams will it be able to accommodate? We feel that with the capacity of the 12 fields that 76 or 80 teams can be accommodated, depending on the number of softball and baseball teams each week..

What is your background? My passion is to help people think bigger and dream bigger. We all have so much potential and our goal as humans is to realize that potential while we are here.  My professional background is in marketing, strategic planning and management. I worked in the pharmaceutical and the health care industries and my last big project as the vice president of planning and marketing at a Chicago hospital was to develop the vision and the plans for a $200 million hospital modernization project. I love to create an idea and watch it take shape.

Have you been surprised at the big names that have signed onto the project? No, not all. People love to be around a project that has momentum and is exciting, and especially a wholesome project like this that serves families and betters the future of our kids.  So, I’m not surprised at all. There are a lot of people that want to give back and there are lot of folks that want to be associated with the Field of Dreams and what it means to people.

Can anyone invest in the project and how much is the minimum investment? The minimum investment is $50,000 and that is a dollar per unit, so that purchases 50,000 units. We still have room for a few investors. We are in the market to sell the rest of the company’s ownership, but there is still room for local folks. We would like to have as many Iowa owners as possible to keep the investment local. The driving goal in this project was first to preserve the Movie Site so it would not be plowed under for crops again. To save this source of pride for Iowa, we needed to create another source of income to pay for the land. This is where the idea for tournaments comes in.  Some people have asked why we couldn’t just buy the land and leave everything as is.  We knew we needed to increase the number of tourists coming to see the Field to generate more income to pay for the land and one of the best ways to do that is to build a complimentary reason for others to visit the site.  The acreage that was sold with the site provides the backdrop for that reason – youth tournaments that will bring future generations to the site long after the movie was released.

Are you surprised that the movie is still so popular? It has stood the test of time. I think it’s because it has such a simple message, especially in today’s society. We are all looking for an escape from stress and from what we do in our lives. And, I think the movie still provides that and people want to pass its message of second chances and redemption along to their kids. It’s a movie that parents want to watch with their kids. The kids may not understand all of the messages in it, but it’s wholesome and it’s about reconnection. So, it will continue. We hope bringing new families to Iowa that likely would have visited otherwise will strengthen the movie’s connection with families.

How do you think this will impact the community of Dyersville? Our goal is to make Ballpark Heaven a facility that Dyersville will be proud of. Certainly, having more baseball and softball families in town for the summer and spring and fall weekends will generate more jobs for people locally.  And, those who’ve always wanted to be their own boss will have more of a chance now as more business opportunities will become available in town.  Families from outside of Iowa may even fall in love with the area much like I have and be eager to make a return visit, and, perhaps, even stay and raise their families here. Ballpark Heaven will offer many opportunities for long-time Dyersville residents to show off their wonderful community.

Theresa Neuhaus is a licensed agent working in our Dyersville office.  She is available to help you with all your Real Estate needs. To learn about investing in All Star Ballpark Heaven or about getting a team in call Go the Distance Baseball at (563) 875-7253