DYERSVILLE — When Frank Thomas and his partners purchased the “Field of Dreams” movie site a year ago, they outlined a wide range of plans for the rural Iowa tourist attraction.
They hoped to turn it into a youth baseball and softball complex that one day would also have a hotel.
But one thing it won't include next year: a Major League Baseball game.
Thomas said MLB won’t be back in 2023 for another regular season game at the specially constructed stadium near the iconic diamond from the 1989 film, though it remains possible that games will return in future years.
Construction on the youth complex that Thomas' company is building begins later this year and will prevent MLB from making a return for a third straight season.
“It’s a lot going on,” Thomas told the Des Moines Register on Wednesday in Dyersville. “They don’t want to come back if the stadium’s not prepared.”
Future MLB games at the site could be a key to its profitability. A feasibility study funded by Travel Dubuque projected the site would draw 136,000 visitors a year, create 81 jobs, host 62 events and generate $9.1 million in investment in the first year after the stadium is built.
However, the study projects that about two-thirds of the stadium's economic impact would come from an annual MLB Field of Dreams game, and the league has not guaranteed a game beyond Thursday, when the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs will play.
MLB’s first trip to Iowa was a smash success: “Field of Dreams” actor Kevin Costner emerged from the corn before the game and walked around the field. Players from the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees followed him out. The teams proceeded to put on a nationally televised show for the ages, with a back-and-forth matchup that ended with White Sox star Tim Anderson crushing a walk-off homer into the corn.
A sellout crowd watched in person in rural northeastern Iowa, and nearly 6 million viewers tuned in that night to make it the most watched regular-season baseball game in the pervious 16 years at the time. The game was also named SportsBusiness Journal’s Event of the Year.
MLB has tried to capitalize on the success with another big week this year. Two Iowa teams, the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Quad Cities River Bandits, played the first Minor League Baseball game at the park Tuesday.
Thomas, a Hall of Famer slugger who spent the majority of his big-league career with the White Sox, announced last September that he and his partners purchased controlling interest in Go the Distance Baseball, the company that owns and operates the site.
Thomas serves as the chief operating officer while Dan Evans, a former general manger of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the chief operating officer. Chicago real estate developer Rick Heidner is also in the group.
Six months after their purchase, Thomas announced site plans that include nine youth baseball and softball fields for boys and girls, team dormitories and a boutique hotel.
Earlier this week, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced she had granted Dyersville’s request for another round of public funding to build a permanent stadium at the site. The field used by MLB and MiLB is temporary, with much of the seating and other amenities coming down after the game ends.
Reynolds plans to allocate $12.5 million to This is Iowa Ballpark, the nonprofit building the stadium.
Tommy Birch, the Register's sports enterprise and features reporter, has been working at the newspaper since 2008. He's the 2018 and 2020 Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Reach him at email@example.com or 515-284-8468. Follow him on Twitter @TommyBirch.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: MLB won't return to Field of Dreams site in 2023, Frank Thomas says