Frank Thomas to lead film site Field of Dreams into a new era
DYERSVILLE – With an impromptu crowd of a few hundred people listening intently to every word, Frank Thomas said his last line and looked up from his notes. What came next was a “Big Hurt” as vintage as crushing fast balls out of sight.
Thomas stopped and displayed his iconic smile – the wide classic that paired well with a Hall of Fame baseball career in the first round and helped him set up post-game plans like this celebrated Thursday.
He was at the “Field of Dreams” film site in Dyersville to officially announce that he and his business partners had acquired a controlling interest in the site’s ownership. In other words: Thomas, whose MLB career spanned nearly two decades as he hit 521 home runs, will lead the site into its next era, which was sparked by the Very successful MLB Field of Dreams game between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees in August.
And that next era has already begun: Next season’s sequel, featuring the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs, is on books by August 11, 2022.
“This place is magic, man,” Thomas said, sporting another massive smile.
Thomas will serve as GM and former MLB GM Dan Evans will serve as COO. Chicago real estate developer Rick Heidner is also involved. The transaction did not include any publicly released financial details, but it does involve the purchase of all of the interests in Go the Distance, which previously operated the film site.
The move adds a nationally recognized face and more baseball weight to the Field of Dreams brand. Backed by the support of local Dyersville leaders and politicians – several of whom were on site Thursday – Thomas and his group will be participating in all things Field of Dreams. This includes continuing discussions on future MLB games beyond 2022, while advancing the long-standing plan to add youth baseball and softball fields alongside the film site. Attracting all ages to Dyersville was central to Denise Stillman’s vision for the site before the former Go the Distance owner died of liver cancer in 2018.
“The most important thing for me is that everyone who shows up to leave here feeling good and smiling,” Evans told The Register. “No matter what brought them there – and what’s unique is that everyone is here for a different reason – I want them all to leave with a smile on their face and be happy.
“No matter what that entails – whether it’s hotels, restaurants, just a great business experience or a baseball experience – I want to bring joy to boys and girls around the world. who come here. It’s really important that this place maintains that level. We’re not going. to deviate from it in any way. ”
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Ever since the 1989 film “Field of Dreams” was filmed in picturesque rural Iowa, with a white farmhouse surrounded by fields of corn stretching out as far as the eye can see, it has become a tourist attraction.
The fantasy sports film, starring Kevin Costner, tells the story of an Iowa farmer who plows his corn and builds a baseball field for Joe Jackson and other members of the banished 1919 White Sox to play. Especially during the summer, a constant stream of vehicles arrive almost daily to unload baseball and movie fans of all ages who run the basics, do a few swings, and have a grip.
The site’s enduring popularity convinced MLB to build a purpose-built park next to the film diamond, where the White Sox and Yankees game played the MLB regular season opener in Iowa on August 12. .
The night set the stage for another starring tour for the film site, starting with Costner and later the ball players emerging from the corn to step on the new diamond. Aired by FOX Sports, it is the most-watched regular-season baseball game for 16 years, with 5.9 million viewers.
Thomas called the “perfect guy” to run “idyllic land”
With the ownership transition underway, Evans looks back over the past few weeks in wonder. Thursday marked exactly seven weeks since Tim Anderson’s home run sailed the Iowa corn, and Evans said most of the essentials surrounding the deal came together in the weeks that followed. Thomas was in Dyersville that night as part of the FOX broadcast crew.
Evans, who has held decision-making positions for five MLB organizations over four decades, has been involved in countless business transactions over the years. He said he and the other partners of This is Heaven LLC, the Thomas-led group of companies that purchased the Field of Dreams site, quickly took the plunge once Thomas expressed interest.
“There were so many moving parts, but when Frank, I and Rick spoke about five weeks ago I was really excited,” said Evans, who started in baseball with the White Sox and was a manager. deputy general for most of Thomas’ 16 seasons there. “Because, of all the people I could think of to handle this wonderful, sacred and idyllic land, Frank was the perfect guy. And I said to him, ‘I’m here if that happens. I want to be part of it. ‘Nothing is happening quickly, but it has happened faster than expected.
“It is a testament to the common thread that makes this place so special. This place is known around the world as a kind of oasis of good. The outpouring of connection for me has been the city, its business owners, the county. and the state being incredibly supportive throughout this very accelerated process, but all with the common goal of keeping this pristine place as it is. Growing it where it’s needed, but doing it with a strategy consistent with the Champ des Rêves. “
This goal fits perfectly with what Stillman conceptualized after purchasing the entire set and approximately 193 acres with a group of investors in 2011. A shift from a modest tourist attraction to a more commercialized business has taken place since this purchase, crowned by last month’s game in front of 8,000 Fans. Stillman knew that presenting the Field of Dreams complex on such a stage could be a crucial step in opening up even more opportunities for entertainment, tourism, business and economic development.
It seems she was there.
“Denise knew if she could bring in MLB and play a game,” Tom Mietzel, CEO of Go the Distance and husband of the late Stillman, declared in the Register last year, “he would do a number of things.”
Similar positivity permeated Thursday’s rally. Thomas has said he hopes the Field of Dreams game becomes such a spectacle that all MLB teams will have the chance to experience it. His take on the sporting side of young people has the same energy.
“My dream has always been to give back to youth baseball and to see the kids have the opportunity that I had,” said Thomas. “There is no better place in the world (for that) than this – to cultivate more fields, to involve the children here on a daily basis. And that is one of my goals.
“But first of all, and my partner Rick Heidner said it best: first we have to get water and sewage to this place before anything can grow. Without water nothing can. push. And that’s the first thing on our agenda. ”
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preparations for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.