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How A Town Of Just 4,000 Prepared For Today's Historic MLB 'Field Of Dreams' Game

An Iowa flag waves over the field at the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa, on June 5, 2020.
An Iowa flag waves over the field at the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa, on June 5, 2020.

Updated August 12, 2021 at 8:08 AM ET

"People will come, Ray," actor James Earl Jones says in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams. "People will most definitely come."

And they are coming, by the thousands.

Dyersville, Iowa, a town of just over 4,000 people, could see its population more than triple on Thursday, when the long-anticipated MLB Field of Dreams game between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees is finally played.

The classic Field of Dreams movie was shot in the small town over 30 years ago, and now a brand new field and 8,000-seat stadium have been constructed right next to the film site in preparation for the game.

Dyersville's claim to fame means the small town has long been a tourist attraction. However, according to Mayor James Heavens, this game may be its biggest tourist boom to date, although officials have been unsure of just how many people to prepare for.

"We don't know quite what to expect," Heavens told NPR. "We're going to have twice as many people just in the stands as [those who] live in town."

Additionally, when you count staff, MLB support and news people "you could easily think that there could be 9,000 to 10,000 people in town, but we've never gone through it before," he said.

The historic game was originally scheduled for last year but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Few people have seen the inside of the stadium

The view from inside the stadium hasn't yet been released to the public. Not until Thursday, when thousands of lucky viewers will enter for the first time into the brand new stadium. The game will also be broadcast nationally on Fox, starting at 7:15 p.m. ET.

"This is as big as it gets," said Roman Weinberg, director of operations for Go The Distance, the organization that owns and operates the movie site. "Especially in baseball, there's no bigger platform than Major League Baseball. When you get someone of that ... caliber shining the spotlight on your location, all you can do is tip your cap, smile and say, 'Thank you very much,' " he told the Des Moines Register.

To prepare, volunteers have spent the week setting up for the official watch party in the town square and restaurants have shipped in extra food. Vendor tents have popped up. Extra security has been brought in and existing security amped up. The town's three hotels were all quickly booked, meaning surrounding cities are also carrying the weight of housing tourists for the week.

"Everyone has their lawn mowed and their flag out, and we fixed all the potholes in town, just trying to put our best foot forward," Heavens said. "It's showtime and I think we're ready to go."

Josie Fischels is an intern on NPR's News Desk.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.