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IS THIS HEAVEN? Stillmans unveil preliminary plans for All-Star Ballpark Heaven.

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Denise Stillman, president and CEO, All-Star Ballpark Heaven

Mike Stillman, contractual co-owner of the Field of Dreams

Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 11:50 pm | Updated: 9:48 am, Wed Dec 14, 2011.

Visual plans for the Field of Dreams movie site, entitled All-Star Ballpark Heaven, were revealed during a Dyersville City Council work session on Dec. 5. Should real life mimic the rough sketches premiered by Mike and Denise Stillman, contractual owners of the famed movie site, it will bring about a project the likes of which has never been seen before in Dyersville, the state of Iowa or the United States.

"Our goal is to make Dyersville, Iowa the next, best place to be," said Denise Stillman.

The Stillmans, as part of an investment group called Go the Distance Baseball LLC, presented a slideshow to the council that included informational bullets on early prospects, goals and two very preliminary mock-ups of what the developers have in mind for the area over the next six years.

Although plans to construct 12 baseball and softball fields for ages 14 and under have made national headlines, the ideas aren't limited specifically to America's pastime.

In phase one, the Stillmans have goals to build an indoor training facility with two to three turf fields, a ropes course for team building, dormitories with room to host roughly 1,000 attendants, an indoor pool accessible to the community and a gazebo near the original movie site for weddings and other events. Completion is estimated for 2014.

By 2017, the group hopes to be finished with phase two of development, doubling the amount of ballfields to 24 and adding more dorms and parking lots to accommodate.

"This will be the premier baseball and softball facility in the nation," Mike Stillman said. "And it's going to be a great experience for these kids. There's no better place to play than Dyersville."

Connections to the Chicago White Sox will play a significant role in creating an enticing year-round Midwest facility. Mike Stillman reported on talks with "old friends" like Sox groundskeeper Roger Bossard and pitching coach Don Cooper to design fields and run camps, respectively.

"To have stars like that is a huge draw for parents and families," he added. "We want people to understand that they'll be having a good playing experience."

Strategic advantages are also in play for the Stillmans - especially when their plans measure against comparable facilities like Cooperstown Dream Parks, in New York, or the Cal Ripken Baseball Academy, in Maryland.

The centralized location of Dyersville, for one, is a more attractive tournament destination for teams in major cities like Chicago, Kansas City and Minneapolis. It would be the largest facility of its kind west of the Mississippi River, appealing to teams on the West Coast. Additionally, neither of the aforementioned complexes was designed with softball players in mind, engaging the female demographic.

Then, of course, there's the obvious draw - one of the most historic baseball landmarks would be right next door.

"The allure of this site is the Field of Dreams," said Mike Stillman, answering a resident's question on why the group is looking at rural land. "You can't just pick up the site and move it somewhere else. We knew the best place for it was the Field of Dreams."

After the presentation, the Stillmans fielded questions from council members and other visitors to the work session. There's still a lot of work to be done. The couple has yet to officially own the property, having only agreed to terms with Don and Becky Lansing, who remain the technical owners of the site. Concerns over annexation and through traffic were also raised -developers have yet to do a traffic study to see how roadways will need to be readjusted.

Denise Stillman stated that she's confident the project can come together.

"We're committed to this thing, and we want to see it happen," she said. "We will commit to being the best neighbors we can be and continue to listen to feedback."

The Stillmans hope to meet with Gov. Terry Branstad later this month to explain their goals firsthand. Dyersville City Administrator Mick Michel added that there could be federal and state dollars to explore as everyone gets a clearer picture on the feasibility of the ideas presented.

"Until we see the analysis, we can't really say what traffic or anything is going to do," he said.

Mayor Jim Heavens added that the recent developments have given locals a lot to digest.

"We've thrown a lot at the people here in the last month or so," he said. "This is going to be a moving process. I find it to be kind of providential that a guy picked Dyersville for a film site, and 25 years later we have these prospects."

Although there's little else to do but speculate, should real life mimic the possibilities, it could mean millions in tourism dollars for the city.

© 2018 Dyersville Commercial. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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