City of Columbia ‘finally sticking a shovel in the ground’ for Spirit Communications Park baseball stadium

Columbia city officials, community leaders and the Columbia Commons project developers gathered Tuesday morning to shuck dirt from a would-be baseball mound to celebrate the official groundbreaking of the Spirit Communications Park stadium. A future minor league baseball team means Columbia’s “time is now,” according to Mayor Steve Benjamin.

Mayor Steve Benjamin celebrates groundbreaking of Spirit Communications Park stadium (photo by Kelly Petty).

Mayor Steve Benjamin celebrates the groundbreaking of Spirit Communications Park stadium Monday. (photo by Kelly Petty)

“Today is about more than baseball,” Benjamin said. “It’s about embracing a vision that says that we, the people of Columbia, can do so much more than just what is expected of us.”

CCEB Partners, the lead construction team for the stadium, began initial site work in late December just before the holidays. Chalk lines and bases outlined a field that would face the southwestern side of the Bull Street development. The 8,500-seat stadium will be near the historic Ensor Building, which will be preserved and incorporated into the facility.

The team tapped Barton Malow to lead the construction of the stadium, according to Greg Hughes, president of Contract Construction. The Michigan-based firm has built 26 ballparks around the country including Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, and PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The firm is working on the new Atlanta Braves stadium.

Hughes said CCEB would use local professional services firm DESA to reach out to local contractors to bid on construction projects.

“Our main focus will be to involve local companies in the construction of their venue so opening day we will have a facility built for the city of Columbia, by the city of Columbia,” Hughes said.

Hardball Capital CEO Jason Freier said the team and its name will be announced in April. Information about founding partners, season ticket and suites purchases also will be released in the spring.

The new logo for Spirit Communications Park (photo by Kelly Petty).

The new logo for Spirit Communications Park (photo by Kelly Petty)

“We’re really excited to finally start moving some dirt and getting the project started,” Freier said.

The stadium is part of the first phase of construction for the Columbia Commons Development. Developer Robert Hughes said an 80-space parking lot will be erected along with the stadium.

“We’re finally sticking a shovel in the ground,” Hughes said.

Hughes kept mum on potential retailers but said the retail developer might make an announcement of four tenants later this year. It previously was reported that about 40 retailers are interested in Columbia Commons.

Foundation work on the stadium will begin in late March and is expected to culminate with the full stadium being ready for minor league baseball in April 2016.

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