Iowa House committee approves $38 million 'Field of Dreams' revamp

Plan would include 24 diamonds, training facility

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The "Field of Dreams" movie site near Dyersville could get a $38 million overhaul with two dozen baseball diamonds and a training facility under a plan presented Tuesday to Iowa lawmakers, who approved tax incentives that would help pay for the project.

After gaining the backing of a subcommittee, the incentives now go to the full House Economic Growth Committee. The Senate also is considering a similar plan, and lawmakers said they think the proposal has a good chance of being approved by the Legislature.

Backers claim the project would create hundreds of jobs and make the area a national tourist attraction.

The expanded site, featuring 24 baseball diamonds and an indoor training center, would mainly operate during the summer.

David Adelman, a spokesman for a group of investors behind the project, said it would be a huge economic boost for Dyersville, an eastern Iowa city with about 4,000 people.

"For 13 weeks, Dyersville is going to double," Adelman said.

The "Field of Dreams" site is named for a 1989 movie starring Kevin Costner, based on the book "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella. The movie is set on a farm where Costner's character carves a baseball diamond out of a cornfield and brings to life players from the 1919 Chicago White Sox.

Under the measure being considered by Iowa lawmakers, the state would allow a 10-year exemption from state sales taxes, allowing developers to collect the tax but keep the proceeds. That would generate an estimated $12.9 million, and make development of the project much more likely, said Rep. Steve Lukan, R-New Vienna.

Local officials would still have to approve the plan, but developers are waiting to first see if they can get state help, Lukan said.

"This piece, if approved, makes it much more likely to happen, it makes the project more feasible" said Lukan.

Rep. Roger Thomas, D-Elkader, said the project would be a boon for the region.

"This is huge tourism," said Thomas. "We're going to get a good return on our money."

Thomas acknowledged that the giant development would change the now quiet area, which has been a key part to the field's charm. Since the movie, the field has been maintained and attracts thousands of visitors, but it has typically remained serene.

That would change, to some extent, in the interest of economic growth, Thomas said.

"In our neck of the woods, that's what we're all looking for, something that will spur growth and jobs," he said.

Adelman said the investors aren't seeking state money and there's no risk to the state if the project fails.

He said one benefit of the plan is that most of the money spent at the facility would come from outside of Iowa, as people come to the site to participate in baseball training programs.

Supporters hope to open the facility in 2014.

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