Electric Co-op Steps Up to Plate With Broadband for the Field of Dreams

MVEC employee Brian Westhoff enjoys the setup for the first official MLB game in Iowa at the Field of Dreams ballpark that the co-op served with broadband fiber communications. (Photo Courtesy: MVEC)

A Field of Dreams real-life rematch between the White Sox and the Yankees in an Iowa cornfield ended in true Hollywood fashion when Chicago’s Tim Anderson hit a walk-off home run, akin to the feat by Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was mythologized in the 1989 movie.

But one of the hometown heroes for Major League Baseball’s most anticipated game of the season was the local electric cooperative that committed no errors in its delivery of broadband internet access for the Aug. 12 nationally televised event that drew some 6 million viewers.

Maquoketa Valley Electric Cooperative provided services to BaAM, the production company for the Field of Dreams game, that included building out fiber to the ballpark for network production, voice connections for operations and local first-responders and last-mile fiber to cell towers set up for communications in the stands.

“We put together our plan, implemented it, and it worked as expected,” said Jeff Geistkemper, fiber plant manager at the Anamosa-based co-op.

At the Field of Dreams ballpark in rural Iowa, MVEC’s broadband, IT and technical service teams worked with the inaugural game’s production company to deliver broadband for the real-life contest between the White Sox and the Yankees. (Photo Courtesy: MVEC)

“Due to the size of the production and its rural location, this project posed several challenges,” he said. But when members of the production and broadcast teams arrived to broadcast the game, “all we did was plug in the optics, and it worked.”

For the first MLB game ever played in Iowa, production company BaAM built the 8,000-seat Field of Dreams stadium about 1,000 feet from the ballpark used in the iconic film starring Kevin Costner. The actor was on hand to lead the teams, donned in 1919 jerseys, out of a cornfield and onto the ballfield.

The co-op’s power lines skirt Dyersville, the closest town to the field, and its fiber connection was about a mile away. MVEC’s broadband unit, technical services and IT teams “worked diligently and innovatively to design and deploy a rock-solid fiber internet network capable of serving extremely high-volume usage,” Geistkemper said.

MVEC got the call from BaAM early last year when MLB wanted to set up an official game at the Field of Dreams. The company needed reliable service on gameday and were made aware of the co-op’s fiber network. MLB eventually canceled the 2020 game due to the COVID-19 pandemic but shifted plans to this summer, giving the co-op the go-ahead in early spring.

The historic game, framed with picture-perfect scenery, showcased Iowa, MLB and the co-op, said Jeremy Richert, MVEC CEO.

Drawing from the iconic 1989 movie, the Field of Dreams ballpark set in rural Iowa cornfields hosted a real-life game between the White Sox and the Yankees. MVEC provided broadband fiber communications for the nationally televised event that attracted 6 million viewers. (Photo Courtesy: MVEC)

“It was a big milestone event for us,” he said. MVEC started offering retail broadband in 2016 after building a smart grid for co-op communications.

“It was a very steep learning curve, but here we are, able to provide service to an event that had attracted the attention of the entire country. It shows how far our staff and team have come in the last four and a half years.”

Geistkemper and a fiber technician were at the game to ensure everything worked and maintained consistent contact with the BaAM team leading up to and during the event. He also instructed contractors to stay close to the area and be ready at a moment’s notice if necessary.

“Luckily, we didn’t need anybody,” he said. “The most successful thing for me on gameday was no one knew we were at the park.”

Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.