COLUMBIA, S.C. - Professional baseball's return to Columbia took another major step forward this morning. Mayor Steve Benjamin, along with Jason Freier (CEO, Hardball Capital), Bob Hughes (President, Hughes Development), Bob Keane (President and CEO, Spirit Communications), and Greg Hughes (President, Contract Construction, Inc. and Project Manager for CCEB Venue Partners) and other City, State and company officials ceremonially broke ground on Spirit Communications Park at Columbia Common in Downtown Columbia.
The state-of-the-art multi-use sports and entertainment venue will be home to an affiliated professional Minor League Baseball team beginning in April, 2016.
"This is a milestone day for our entire city," Mayor Benjamin said. "It's taken hard work by many to make this possible, and more hard work is still in store, but our vision for a more vibrant Columbia is coming closer and closer to fruition. The countdown is now on to Opening Day in 2016."
The team will begin taking reservations for ticket packages on February 2, 2015. Information and pricing will be available online at ColumbiaProBaseball.com and SpiritCommunicationsPark.com on January 27, 2015.
"It's exciting to think about how Spirit Communications Park will add to what is already one of the Southeast's great cities," said Freier, who was at a similar groundbreaking for Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2007. Parkview Field has since been named the "No. 1 Ballpark Experience" in Minor League Baseball in three of the past four years.
Spirit Communications Park will anchor development at Columbia Common, the new gateway to Downtown Columbia. The 181-acre Columbia Common, under the guidance of master developer Hughes Development, is primed to become the ultimate live-work-play community in the region.
"We've seen this kind of development centered around a ballpark work throughout the country, including not so far away from Columbia," said Bob Hughes, who has developed in the area around Fluor Field in Greenville's West End. "Folks in Columbia are in for a treat with Spirit Communications Park."
More than 900 jobs are expected to be created during the construction of the ballpark. Once complete, Columbia's professional baseball team will bring on approximately 35 full-time and 550 part-time employees.
Construction of Spirit Communications Park is being managed by CCEB Venue Partners, a joint venture among Contract Construction, Construction Dynamics, and EnviroAg Sciences - all local firms - as well as Barton Mallow Construction, national ballpark experts.
"Contract Construction is proud to be part of the CCEB Venue team," said Greg Hughes. "Our focus will be to involve local companies in the construction of THEIR venue s on Opening Day we will have a facility built FOR the City of Columbia, BY the City of Columbia."
Spirit Communications Park has been designed by Populous. The world's premier venue architectural firm also has designed 20 of Major League Baseball's 30 ballparks, in addition to the University of South Carolina Baseball Stadium.
One aspect that will make Spirit Communications Park unique from so many others around the country is that it will play host to far more than just baseball. The facility will serve as a public gathering place for hundreds of indoor and outdoor non-baseball events each year. From concerts to community events, Spirit Communications Park will welcome thousands. The park will host approximately 8,000 fans for baseball games and 14,000 for concerts.
"Spirit Communications is excited to have our name on this fantastic, multi-use venue," said Keane. "People from all across the Midlands will make memories at this park that will last a lifetime."
Said Benjamin: "Today we break ground; In April of 2016, we'll play ball."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.