View Full Version : Movies and TV Original "Field of Dreams" Field For Sale

07-21-2010, 06:18 PM


By Stan Grossfeld
Globe Staff / July 20, 2010

An estimated 1 million visitors have journeyed to the “Field of Dreams’’ movie site since the Academy Award-nominated film was released in 1989. But the owners of the farm, Don and Becky Lansing, say they have gone the distance, and now the fabled site is for sale.


“It’s like being a baseball player; when your time is up, it’s up,’’ says Don Lansing, 68.

But with a $5.4 million asking price, no one has stepped to the plate to ease their pain.

The Lansings have never charged admission or for parking. There is no commercial signage, no fences to keep people out. The field is as picture perfect as the day Shoeless Joe Jackson wandered out of the cornfield and wondered if he were in heaven. Fathers and sons play catch, old-timers wander in and out of the corn giggling like schoolboys, and middle-aged men run the bases, their pot bellies jiggling.

The property has been both a blessing and a burden since Universal Studios built the “Field of Dreams’’ in four days in the summer of 1988 after a massive search for the perfect farm to place a ballfield.

Lansing received $50,000 for the location shooting. After the shoot, he thought he would leave the field intact for a few days so family and friends could play. But then it started — first as a trickle. On May 5, 1989, a man from New York drove cross-country to the site and wept at home plate. He insisted on giving Lansing a New York Giants baseball cap. And the visitors increased each year, leveling off at 65,000 people annually.

To this day, Don Lansing still rides his John Deere tractor and grooms the pathways with a sweeper made from old mattress springs. If he sees a weed, he gets down on his hands and creaky knees and removes it. Becky, a former tour operator, still gives free talks.

Cars and buses with squished bugs on the windshield and license plates from all around the country kick up dust on the gravel roads as they arrive from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, April through November.

The scene is surreal. The faithful emerge with the same kind of reverence one sees at Gettysburg, the Wailing Wall, and the Sistine Chapel. There is no trash here, no rusted beer cans tossed in the high corn. The Lansing family has owned the farm since 1906, but six years ago they moved from the main house to a quieter home on the other side of the road.

They say they debated long and hard before deciding to sell the 193 acres, the home with the famous front porch with the swing and six other buildings, including the souvenir stand.


“It’s time,’’ says Becky. “We are tired. We need somebody else to take the Field of Dreams to a new level.’’ But to do so would require zoning changes the Lansings don’t want to tackle.

Becky Lansing forecasts record crowds this summer, 21 years after the movie was released.

“I think people have accelerated their trip after hearing it was for sale,’’ she says.

On this day, a bus from West Virginia shows up. The mostly repeat visitors are worried new owners will over-commercialize the place.

Folks around Dyersville think the sale price is strictly Hollywood.

“We as the locals were kind of shocked that was the price they put on that,’’ says Dyersville’s mayor, James Heavens. “As a farm ground that land would be worth $7,000 an acre. But there is a spiritual connection to that place. It’s very well maintained. Maybe they’ll get $5.4 million from somebody. If they can get that, God bless ’em.’’

Becky Lansing says this isn’t about a cornfield and a ballfield. It’s more about second chances in life.

“This is a living, breathing piece of movie memorabilia. This is the only one in the world.’’

‘We’re not greedy’
Don Lansing, a shy, soft-spoken man of few words, has been stung by criticism of the hefty asking price.

“I don’t want people thinking we’re greedy,’’ he laments. “We’re not greedy. If we were greedy, we’d be charging people $20 [for admission]. We are not in this for money. We did this for the love of the game. It’s about making other people happy and making their dreams come true. Our philosophy was to keep it simple and serene so people can leave with a smile on their face.’’

Becky says the couple survives mostly on Don’s pension from 30 years working at John Deere as a forklift operator.

But the souvenir shop does a thriving business. Who wouldn’t want a “Field of Dreams’’ coffee cup ($11) that has ballplayers magically appearing in the cornfields when hot liquid is poured in the cup?

“You don’t make a living here,’’ says Becky, citing high maintenance costs. “Trust me, I’m being straight up with you.’’

The realtor is former relief pitcher Ken Sanders, who had a 10-year major league career. Sanders says he has fielded hundreds of inquiries from as far away as the United Arab Emirates (It was from Americans living there, he says).

“It’s not like selling a three-bedroom, bath-and-a-half ranch. There’s a lot of information that has to be shared,’’ says Sanders from his Milwaukee office. He was befriended by the Lansings when they allowed fantasy games to be played here 15 years ago. George Brett, Reggie Jackson, and Rollie Fingers, among others, participated. Ernie Banks, Sadaharu Oh, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Kirby Puckett also have visited.

Sanders says the Lansings have done enough. “To be very honest, the Lansings are getting burned out after 20-plus years. They don’t have the ambition, energy, enthusiasm, and creativity to raise more money.’’

Sanders says one prospective buyer wants to build a hotel and water park here. Another group wants to build a youth baseball complex, like Cooperstown Dream Parks.

“I’ve had a couple of verbal offers, but they need to massage their numbers a little bit,’’ Sanders says.

Dream marriage
The Lansings have no children to leave the farm to. Don was a bachelor who lived with his mother until he was in his mid-50s. Becky, who was a widow living in Boulder, Colo., met Don on New Year’s Day 1995 after she had three dreams telling her to report to the Field of Dreams. So she hopped in the car and drove.

“I ended up here on a very snowy New Year’s Eve. I sat there at the end of the driveway and I literally said, ‘OK, God, what’s up? You brought me here, now you’re going to leave me here?’ I went back to the hotel.’’

She called Lansing. “I said, ‘I was given a message that I was supposed to go to the Field of Dreams, would your wife mind if I came? He said, ‘Oh, first off, I’m not married, but I don’t want you to think I didn’t have plenty of opportunity.’’

She went to the field that night and did what the dream instructed her to do: eat a hot dog and drink a root beer in the stands.

The next morning she returned to the field, and this time Lansing came out of the house.

“I said, ‘Mr. Lansing, I’m the girl that called you,’ and he said, ‘I was waiting for you.’ ’’

Becky knew that day they would get married. On July 26, Don Lansing popped the question on the famous porch swing.

“We are just one of a million stories,’’ says Becky. “It is a gift. We get to watch people at their most exuberant and at their saddest.’’

Don says he also believes the field is magic.

“I had a father and two sons that weren’t getting along and by the time they left they were playing catch. Another time, I had two brothers that met out here that didn’t even plan on it. They were from different parts of the country — five states apart. They hadn’t seen each other in 10 years.’’

The Lansings say they are never going to move from the area.

“We’re ready to sit on those bleachers and watch the field continue to grow and be everything it can be,’’ says Becky. “We’re not going to move, no. From here? From heaven? No. Here I can get a plumber on Christmas morning.’’

A rough patch
But things have not always gone smoothly here.

The left- and center-field portion of the Field of Dreams was on the property of Al and Rita Amescamp. When tourists started to arrive, the Lansings and Amescamps tried to agree on a profit-sharing plan. They couldn’t. So for years there were two different roads, one saying “Left and Center Field of Dreams’’ and the other “Field of Dreams movie site,’’ both leading to two different souvenir shops.

“The media decided it was the Hatfields and the McCoys,’’ says Becky Lansing. “It wasn’t.’’

The Amescamps were more aggressive with their slice of heaven.

They brought in batting cages. Kevin Costner, who starred as Ray Kinsella, returned with his band and played to 1,000 people. They brought in the Ghost Players in old-time uniforms to emerge from the corn once a month. They leased their land to a private investor who put in a corn maze and charged $6 a person. It didn’t work.

Meanwhile, the Lansings allowed a Buick commercial shown during the 1989 World Series and some fantasy charity games. But it didn’t feel right, so they stopped. They didn’t want visitors who traveled halfway around the world to be told the field was closed. Three years ago, the Lansings bought the Amescamp’s part of the Field of Dreams.

“They are actually good neighbors and good friends,’’ says Becky.

Now, although there are no restrictions placed on potential buyers, the Lansings worry about the future of the Field of Dreams.

“There is something here that allows people the connection to a higher sense of existence,’’ says Becky. “I’m hoping that somebody who feels the same way I do buys it and keeps it exactly the same.’’

Stan Grossfeld can be reached at grossfeld@globe.com.

07-22-2010, 11:07 AM