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Jeff Smiley's field of dreams come true

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Local businessman Jeff Smiley stands in front of the field where Showplace Cinemas of Evansville plans to build a new 10-screen movie theater. Proposed road additions are in Smiley’s plans to provide easy access to the theater, located south of the Henry County YMCA.
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This image,provided by Christy Ragle of WholeHeart Communications, shows where the new ShowPlace Cinema is planned. The blue areas represent road improvements planned to accommodate the addition.

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

Hundreds of people visit it every day, going to exercise at the Henry County YMCA, taking children to the pediatrician’s office, seeing the doctor for illnesses, aches and pains or getting prescriptions filled.

Now, Northfield Park is welcoming a new neighbor to a complex that has grown like a bumper crop – a 10-screen movie theater.

Showplace Cinemas, a family-owned and operated theater group based in Evansville, recently announced the signing of a purchase agreement with Jeff and Mary Kathleen Smiley for four acres in Northfield Park.

Plans call for the new theater to be built just south of the YMCA and east of the most recent addition to the park, the Henry Community Health Complex.

Tuesday afternoon, as he showed The Courier-Times just where the new 10-screen theater will be built, Smiley reflected on Northfield Park’s origins, the nearly two-decade journey it’s taken to reach this point and one behind-the-scenes encourager who helped make it all happen.

Smiley said well-known Mooreland farmer Marvin Luellen not only sold him the property for development of Northfield Park, but also advised and encouraged him throughout the process.

“I had pursued Marvin for four years,” Smiley said. “One morning I went to his house before dawn and waited. I went up to his office at 5 a.m. when I saw his light come on.”

“One thing led to another. We started meeting at Bill’s Diner and we negotiated a deal. At first, he told me, ‘I won’t sell it for less than this amount of money.’

“Well, I started scrapping everything I had for a downpayment,” Smiley continued. “But then he came to me a few weeks later with a rolled-up sheet of paper that had been faxed and just said ‘Here, read this and let me know.’

“I read that thing twice and it brought me to tears. Marvin said ‘I’ve been where you are. You were going to tip yourself over financially. I’m going to make this easy for you. Randy and I have made a lot of money there. And he pointed to me and said ‘It’s your turn now.’”

With a modest downpayment, easy terms, encouragement and advice along the way, Luellen helped Smiley’s dream grow in a place where he and son Randy once yielded so many good crops.

And as he pointed to the field where a new cinema will be built, Smiley said he’s never forgotten the Luellen generosity.

“That’s just the kind of people they are,” Smiley said.