Field of Dream Project Advances to Full Iowa Senate

By Rod Boshart, Reporter

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Senate Economic Growth/Rebuild Iowa Committee voted 13-2 Thursday in favor of a bill designed to provide a tax rebate of up to $16.5 million to the owners of the sprawling Eastern Iowa cornfields made famous by the movie "Field of Dreams" who want to preserve the site's baseball legacy.

The company, Go the Distance Baseball LLC, plans to develop the 193-acre site near Dyersville as a $38.4 million youth baseball and softball complex with 24 fields, dormitories and other amenities.

"This is a unique opportunity for the state of Iowa to create jobs," said Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, who expected the project. He said the project is projected to create 506 jobs and generate $47 million in economic activity via tourism spending at restaurants, hotels and other spin off retail activity. "This is a whole different beast. This is an icon, something they travel to."

Senate File 2110 authorizes the Iowa Department of Revenue to rebate sales tax collected by retailers on purchases made at a baseball and softball tournament facility and movie site. The bill's language is crafted to apply only to the Dyersville project, stating that construction on the facility must commence not later than one year following the enactment of the bill and the cost of the construction must be at least $38 million. The rebate of sales tax only applies to the sales tax collected on transactions occurring on or after Jan. 1, 2014, and before Jan. 1, 2024, and shall only be paid from the baseball and softball tournament facility and movie site sales tax rebate fund created in the bill. Backers said S.F. 2110 is similar to an incentive package the General Assembly approved for the Iowa Speedway in Newton.

Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, questioned the constitutionality of the financing arrangement and said, if it happens, it should be offered generally rather than just for one project. "If it's good for one, it's good for all," he said. "We really shouldn't be picking winners and losers."

However, Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City, applauded the concept as a way to pick winners with a project that would have a "cluster effect" of attracting other development to the northeast Iowa area. "This is exactly the type of project we should be looking for," he said.

Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, said it was a great project that builds on the "magic" of the Field of Dreams movie, but Sen. Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said there are other great ideas looking for state financial help which raised the question "where do we draw the line? If we're really going to open the door, let's open the door and have that policy," he said.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
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