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Oak Lawn couple has big dreams for Iowa ballfield

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A baseball shrine in Iowa was brought to life in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams. The farm property near the town of Dyersville was put up for sale. An Oak Lawn couple bought it.

As ABC 7's Paul Meincke reports, the hope is, if they build an added attraction, people will come.

Is it heaven? Or is it Iowa? Maybe it's both.

It was a Hollywood set in the late 1980s for the movie Field of Dreams. In the years since, people have come to Don and Becky Lansing's farm to walk on the diamond, to sit in the bleachers, to wonder what's out there in the corn, and to have a catch.

That is the joy that Mike Stillman and his son found two summers ago.

"You're playing catch with your son, and the line from the movie, 'I give and I get,' and I'll remember that for the rest of my life," Stillman said. "And now he'll have the opportunity to do that with his son or daughter."

Stillman is a Chicago lawyer. His wife Denise is an MBA. When they found that the Lansing farm was up for sale, they set out to buy it, and 15 months later, they are the new owners of the "Field of Dreams."

Their plans? As parents of a now 10-year-old on a travel team, the Stillmans say the Midwest doesn't have the premiere youth baseball tournament facilities it ought to have, and their vision is to bring that to the farm just outside Dyersville, Iowa.

"They have one in New York and up and down the East Coast, but what better place to do it than the holy ground of baseball, which is the Field of Dreams?" said Denise Stillman.

Just as Ray Kinsella chose baseball over corn, the Stillmans have a similar, yet larger vision. Their intent is to convert most of the farm into a baseball complex. They want to call it All-Star Ballpark Heaven, with 12 diamonds to start, where youth teams will come to play.

The house and the original field and all that nostalgia will remain the same. Though it is possible that part might cost a bit.

"Certainly this has to be a profitable venture, otherwise it won't stay afloat, and it's a much bigger business than it is now, but our goal is to keep it an affordable family destination," said Denise Stillman.

The Stillmans have been getting flooded with congratulatory messages on what will be a huge undertaking. One of them captured the essence of it all.

"The one tweet was, 'It's a magical place. Don't mess it up,' " said Mike Stillman, "and I responded, 'We won't.' "

The Stillmans aren't discussing the sale price for the Lansing farm, which at one point was listed at close to $5.5 million.

There is much work ahead, including zoning issues and expanding an investment group.

As Mike Stillman says, it's the first inning of a long game, and yet again it is a test of the premise, "If you build it, they will come."

(Copyright ©2014 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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