Wade Boggs invests in local couple’s ‘Field of Dreams’
BY SANDRA GUY Business Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org September 27, 2012 11:58AM
Don and Becky Lansing are selling their 193-acre farm in Dyersville, Iowa, which played a starring role in the baseball nostalgia move, "Field of Dreams," to a group of investors led by Oak Lawn couple Mike and Denise Stillman. The investors have hired White Sox "sod father" and groundskeeper Roger Bossard to design a Major League Baseball quality tournament field on all of the ball diamonds at the farm and turn it into a premier Midwest destination for softball and baseball tournaments for boys and girls and young adults.
Updated: October 29, 2012 6:51AM
Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs on Thursday announced his support and part ownership in an Oak Lawn couple’s plans to develop 24 youth baseball and softball tournament fields on the Iowa farm featured in the baseball nostalgia movie, “Field of Dreams.”
Boggs told the Sun-Times he decided to be a spokesman, invest financially and teach clinics at the site just outside of Dyersville, Iowa, because the tournament complex’s location would give the Midwest a place of its own and enable parents and kids to stay closer to home rather than traveling to the East Coast for major tournaments.
The $38 million project is being called All-Star Ballpark Heaven.
“The proximity throughout the Midwest and the West gives parents in these tough economic times an opportunity to have a tremendous facility, expand their baseball dreams of going to the next level and possibly going to the Major Leagues,” said Boggs, 54, of Tampa, Fla., who said he now stays busy as grandfather to three-and-a-half-year-old Aidan Jones, 13-month-old Colin Jones and 16-month-old Beckett Boggs.
No details were disclosed about the amount of Boggs’ investment, but it is the largest so far, said Denise Stillman, who with her husband, Mike, are leading the project and seeking investors.
Boggs said he grew up playing sandlot ball in vacant lots in Tampa, and would have “loved a facility like this” that will offer players clinics led by experienced coaches and players.
He said the Midwest also will get a leg up with the park’s indoor fields.
“Kids in Florida, Texas and California get to play year-round, and this will enhance the Midwest’s ability not to fall behind these other states,” he said.
The Stillmans first sought Boggs’ support in June, and the parties had been negotiating Boggs’ participation since then, they said.
The Stillmans had earlier announced hiring Chicago White Sox “sod father” and groundskeeper Roger Bossard to design the ball fields to Major League quality.
Denise Stillman said Thursday the project has attracted six investors, and that she and her husband are still seeking private equity, debt financing and other financial backing. The Iowa Legislature passed a bill granting the developers $16.5 million in future sales tax breaks, and the Stillmans expect to close on the purchase of the 193-acre parcel this week.
The plan is to open 12 of the 24 ball fields in April 2014 to mark the movie’s 25th anniversary with $24 million of the $38 million goal in hand, Denise Stillman said.
The field’s owners, Don and Becky Lansing, put the field up for sale for $5.4 million on May 13, 2010, after deciding they wanted it to grow under a new generation’s leadership.
The field has been in the Lansing family for 105 years.