Groundbreaking for Columbia’s $37 million baseball stadium is set for Tuesday, a little later than city officials have been projecting for months.
Final “ground disturbance” permits from the city and the state environmental agency might be approved by Friday and construction equipment is expected Monday, Gregory Tucker, the city’s project manager for the Bull Street development, said Wednesday.
The ceremonial groundbreaking is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, which coincides with City Council’s first meeting of 2015.
City Hall leaders have said for months that actual groundbreaking would occur by year’s end. In mid-December, they said a ceremonial event would happen in January.
Plans are for the year-round, city-owned ballpark to be ready by April 2016 when a yet-to-be-announced minor league baseball team will open a new era of professional baseball in the capital city.
Tucker said he does not yet have a detailed construction timetable because the city has not received final construction drawings.
He said he received notification just before noon Wednesday that Columbia’s permitting department approved the city permits and sent them to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. DHEC also must give its stamp of approval before dirt can be excavated.
“DHEC technically has seven days to process,” Tucker said. “They told us they are trying to approve it by Friday.” But short staffing because of the holidays makes that timetable uncertain.
“If everything works out perfectly, we should be permitted by Friday,” Tucker said.
Taxpayers are investing $30 million to build the facility. Hardball Capital of Atlanta is pitching in $7 million in private investment.
The price tag grew this month when Mayor Steve Benjamin announced that Hardball Capital owner Jason Freier was adding $1 million to his $6 million portion. The city’s share grew from $29 million after master Bull Street developer Bob Hughes agreed to moved $1 million in public infrastructure money from other Bull Street projects to the stadium. Hughes’ first construction project is to be immediately adjacent to the ballpark.
On New Year’s Eve, the only activity on the eight-acre site where Spirit Communications Park will rise was by a few workers from a Greenville drilling company. Not a bulldozer was in sight. The serene, grassy site with a stand of grand trees was as it has been for decades.
The stadium, intended to hold about 8,500 spectators for baseball and more for other events, is being presented by city officials and developers as the linchpin to major private investment on the surrounding 157 acres that one day might revitalize the city center.