Field of Dreams inspired by faraway source

After more than six years in the making, the most iconic Iowa cornfield was converted into a vintage MLB stage

August 12th, 2021

In Universal Pictures’ Field of Dreams, The Voice compels Ray Kinsella to design a nexus of nostalgia, healing and hope from an Iowa cornfield.

More than three decades after the movie’s release, construction of the MLB at Field of Dreams site demanded its own blend of creativity, ingenuity and resiliency.

And while Dyersville, Iowa, could be described as a distant locale for the White Sox and Yankees to meet in a Major League game, the concept behind this event can be traced to a more remote baseball outpost: Sydney, Australia.

The 2014 season-opening series between the Dodgers and D-backs at the Sydney Cricket Ground affirmed to officials with MLB and the MLB Players Association that they could bring the sport to unique destinations on temporary MLB-quality playing surfaces.

The Sydney success contributed to the 2016 conversion of an unused golf course at Fort Bragg in North Carolina into the site of MLB’s first regular-season game at an active military installation.

The Field of Dreams offers a rich, enduring connection to baseball -- and also challenges that didn’t exist with Fort Bragg’s relatively blank canvas.

A 2015 site survey confirmed that the movie field -- preserved as it appeared when Shoeless Joe stepped into the outfield -- wouldn’t work for a Major League game due to the hilly slope of right field. And the former Lansing Family Farmhouse, with its white picket fence, is too close to the movie field to allow for a temporary grandstand.

So, MLB officials followed Kinsella’s inspiration: They carved into the corn and built their own baseball diamond.

The White Sox and Yankees will play on a new MLB-caliber field built on 17 acres of former farmland, a short walk beyond the movie site’s left field. The project required the movement of roughly 30,000 cubic yards of material, in part because the property’s natural grade had to be leveled.

“I watched the movie when it came out in 1989, and I think everybody dreams of their own Field of Dreams,” said Murray Cook, the MLB consultant in charge of the ballpark’s construction. “To have the honor of building something in the middle of a cornfield, at the Field of Dreams movie site, it’s hard to compare this to anything else.

“It’s magical. It’s goosebumps everyday. Here we are, doing the same thing as Ray Kinsella, all these years later.”

MLB hired three companies -- Populous, BaAM Productions and BrightView -- to turn the vision into a ballpark. Construction began in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the original event date of Aug. 13, 2020. Cook, president of BrightView’s sports turf division, estimates that he’s made between 15 and 20 separate trips to Dyersville.

The MLB field’s orientation -- a mirror image of the movie site -- is a critical detail. Event organizers wanted the original field to be visible from the MLB field, which is why the grandstand wraps around more of the third-base line than the first-base line. A fan’s sight line could include Aaron Judge in right field, cornfields behind him, and Kinsella’s backstop and porch swing in the distance.

And the views should be brilliant even after nightfall, thanks to LED lighting installed by Musco Lighting, a renowned Iowa-based company.

Perhaps the best news of all is that the MLB field will remain part of the Field of Dreams site long after this game’s final out. Go The Distance Baseball owns the former Lansing Family Farm, and it has announced plans to construct a youth baseball complex on the property called All-Star Ballpark Heaven, of which the MLB field will remain part.

A dream born in Australia is being realized in Dyersville. People will come. They always have.