DYERSVILLE, Iowa -- Murray Cook has worked in 60 different countries building baseball stadiums.
His portfolio includes the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic, but his latest undertaking might just be the most unique.
And it could even top his list of favorites.
Cook, a field and stadium consultant for Major League Baseball, oversaw the construction of the temporary stadium adjacent to the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville that will host Thursday's game between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees.
“That one really hits home for us,” said Cook, the president of BrightView’s sports turf division. “The people here in the community and everyone’s got an association with the movie. Everyone’s got an association of how it makes them feel. I’ve been privileged to come out here 25 times the past two years to watch it and feel it, and you get the goosebumps every time. Every time. It’s a magical place.”
Cook was on hand for the unveiling of the stadium for a media tour this afternoon.
The stadium, he said, was modeled after the old Comiskey Park in Chicago, complete with barnwood fencing and scoreboard.
Rows upon rows of corn rise behind an immaculately manicured diamond.
An old-fashioned, wooden scoreboard rises out of the corn beyond the right-field fence, and the batter’s eye in centerfield is made from a similar barnwood in the shape of a barn -- an obvious tribute to the movie's setting.
Fans attending the game will pass through the famous outfield corn at the movie site to reach the stadium, following a path with cutouts of current Yankees and White Sox stars tucked into the cornstalks while iconic sounds from the movie play --- think, "If you build it," and "Hey, Dad, wanna have a catch?" --- from speakers set back into the corn. Fans will pass behind the centerfield fence before entering the seating area near the left-field corner.
The dugouts --- the Yankees will occupy the first-base side with the White Sox across the diamond in the home dugout --- match the barnwood theme.
“They have done a fantastic job. It far exceeds my expectations,” said actor Dwier Brown, who portrayed John Kinsella in the film.
Cook and the MLB team made its initial trip to scout the site in 2015. With a large grandstand, press box and temporary clubhouses required, utilizing the original field just wasn’t feasible.
“All that stuff wouldn’t fit over there, so it made sense that we move home plate 1,000 feet to the west,” Cook said. “Fast forward to August of 2019, and we pushed the corn down, just like Ray Kinsella and his daughter did in the movie.
“It’s been pretty exciting to tie those memories and things together.”
The cooled, white-walled clubhouses --- located under the grandstand behind each dugout --- are outfitted with everything the players and coaches are accustomed to at their home parks, complete with managers’ offices, training rooms, showers and exercise equipment, with a full batting cage just across the hall from the socially distanced locker room.
Jeremiah Yolkut, director of MLB Events and Scheduling, said there was no difference from an MLB stadium other than its uniqueness.
“And maybe better airflow,” he added.
The press box, situated at the rear of the grandstand, will house print media along the third-base side. The FOX television crew will be located at the center of the press box, with individual boxes for radio stations toward the first-base side. There is an additional broadcast location amid the corn in left field.
The stadium will seat about 7,800, said Chris Marinak, MLB’s chief operations and strategy officer. The winners of the lottery for Iowa residents will sit in bleachers along the left-field line, although Marinak said he believed some of the close to 3,000 tickets allotted for Iowans were in the reserved stadium seating behind home plate and the dugouts. The majority of those seats will be occupied by corporate sponsors, season ticket-holders for both clubs in addition to individual player requests.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred will be in attendance, as will ownership of both franchises.
Tickets for the game were going for a minimum of $995 apiece on StubHub on Wednesday afternoon. Many were going for three and four times the face value of $375.
“One of our strategies behind playing these types of games is to bring baseball to communities that don’t have a chance to see Major League Baseball on a regular basis, so we felt it was really important to make the remaining ticket inventory to Iowa residents,” Marinak said. “Those were obviously snatched up really quicky, but we’re excited we can kind of make this game available to that audience.”
While the field itself will remain a permanent fixture, everything outside of the fences will eventually be dismantled -- with the dugouts a possible exception.
MLB has had preliminary conversations about a potential return.
“The possibilities are really endless,” Marinak said. “We’re just excited to get here and try this out from a major league standpoint and then see what we can do with it moving forward.”
The game was originally scheduled for last season, but it was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s still unknown whether the park will play more friendly to hitters or pitchers -- or somewhere in between. The field measures 335 feet down the lines, 380 to the power alleys and 400 to straightaway center field --- again, inspired by old Comiskey.
“Hard to say on that one,” Cook said. “We feel the winds, we feel the corn swaying in the wind. We feel the corn transpiration --- corn sweat, right? The humidity at night, when it comes up at night, when it comes in in the morning -- I think that’s going to have an effect.
“I think it’s just going to be the most unique place to hit a ball ever. But to tell you what it’s going to do? Man, I can’t wait to see it myself.”