A bill that would provide a tax break to a project to expand the Field of Dreams site near Dyersville in eastern Iowa cleared an initial hurdle in the Iowa Senate today. One critic said the state should not be singling out one economic development opportunity over another, but Senator Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa, couldn’t resist quoting the 1989 movie’s signature line.

“I probably can’t begin without saying if we build it they will come,” Bowman said. He went on to explain that the tax break would boost the rural economy by helping investors preserve the movie site and add a youth sport complex for traveling teams.

He says it’s estimated the expanded site would generate $272-million in revenues over 10 years with 95% of that money coming from out of state. Bowman said the project would get a sales tax rebate on sales that would never have happened without the expansion, so the state has no skin in the game.

But Senator Jack Whitver, a Republican from Ankeny, did not sign on. “It’s just I don’t want to be in the middle of deciding who wins and who loses in government,” Whitver said. In other words giving a tax break to the Field of Dreams project, but not for some other youth sports complex.

“At this time I’m just not comfortable saying we like you we’re going to let you succeed and not you in Ankeny or Sioux City or Council Bluffs,” Whitver said.

“Go the Distance Baseball” is seeking investors to underwrite the $38-million facility. Spokesman David Adelman says the tax break is important to the project.

“It significantly affects our ability to go towards investors, saying that the state is not interested in participating,” Adelman said. Under the bill, the project dubbed “Allstar Ballpark Heaven” would get a sales tax rebate for 10 years or up to 16-million-dollars once they’re up and running.

A similar tax break helped create the Iowa Speedway in Newton. The bill advances to the Senate Economic Growth Committee.