‘Go the distance.’
‘Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.’
‘If you build it, he will come.
The three quotes stem back to a 1989 movie called Field of Dreams. The film was written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson and based on Canadian novelist W.P. Kinsella`s 1982 novel entitled ‘Shoeless Joe’. The film starred Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, the late Ray Liotta and Burt Lancaster in what would be his final role.
Roll forward to 2023, take yourself to Dyersville, Iowa, and we have the ‘Field of Dreams Movie Site.’ The house that was used as the Kinsella homestead remains and is open for tours and also for rental. The baseball field stands there too. I was lucky enough to be able to get time with the interim Chief of Staff for the site, Craig Purcell.
Thank you, Craig, for your time.
Could you share a few lines for my readers on who you are, what you do?
My name is Craig Purcell, and I am the Interim Chief of Staff at the Field of Dreams Movie Site. In my current role I head up a staff of approximately 16 people, and everyone who works here does whatever is necessary to assure each visitor to the site has the best experience they can.
What brought you to the FoD movie site?
I’ve always been a “student of the movie” and have easily seen it more than 100 times. My brain is one that soaks up trivia and I began seeking out any information I could find about the movie and the site…just for my own enjoyment. Before working full time at the Field, I was a newspaper reporter in Dyersville and neighbouring Cascade. My editor knew about my love for the Field, so I would get any and all assignments over here. It was during one of these assignments that I met Denise Stillman, and we soon became friends. In 2017 Denise had posted to her Facebook page that she was going to begin doing house tours and I thought it had to be a fun “side gig.” I called her and she hired me as soon as she heard my voice, telling me, “I can’t think of anyone who would be better at it.”
How long have the home tours been going?
I did the very first house tour March 31, 2017.
What is the full ‘Field of Dreams’ experience that you offer?
The visitors bring the experiences they wish to have, we just provide them the backdrop. We offer the paid and guided house tours, but for those not wishing to tour the home, the Field is available for playing catch, running the bases or just enjoying the feel of the grass under your feet. And of course, once the corn is up (late-July or early August) people are going in and out of the stalks for photos and videos all day long. There is a souvenir store on the property as well as The Stretch, our concession stand that offers standard ballpark foods like hot dogs and burgers.
What is your favourite aspect of working here?
The people who visit and the stories they share freely. So often we’re told that a visit has been on a person’s “bucket list” for so long, and we consider it a high honour to be held in that regard. Men weep openly, and it doesn’t matter what anyone’s favorite teams are or what their political affiliations are…all that can be left in the “real world.” For the length of time people are here it does become Heaven to many, who wish to leave the real-world issues behind for a few hours and get back to when things were simpler and pure – playing baseball under a warm summer sun where the result of the game doesn’t matter…what only matters is that you played and had fun.
How many visitors a year do you get through the site?
Approximately 250,000 last season, and we expect that number to rise in 2023.
Have you had many celebrities visit the site?
While many have visited, we respect the wish for privacy they may have if they decide to take a house tour. Everyone is entitled to enjoy the peace and calm available here, and if we think we recognize someone in the house, we’ll generally give them a little nod to let them know we’re not going to broadcast who they might be.
When MLB held their game after covid, and Kevin Costner walked out from the corn to introduce it, were you there for that and how did that feel?
I was unable to attend in person but watched it on TV. I was texting with one of the reporters covering the game, and he said that when Kevin Costner made his appearance at the beginning, there was not a dry eye on press row. That moment will never be duplicated
What are the plans for the site?
We are building a complex that will include nine softball and baseball fields, an indoor training facility and more. The MOST IMPORTANT thing for visitors to know is that our entire property is 300 acres. The new fields are being constructed past the sight line at the end of the corn to right field. The integrity of the movie site field will be preserved as all that will be visible to right field will be the corn and the light poles.
Craig, I thank you very much for your time. This interview had underlying personal notes for me as Field of Dreams was my late husband’s favourite film. He always dreamed of visiting the site. Hopefully one day, I can honour that dream, and visit from my home in Queensland to the movie site home in Iowa.