ST. LOUIS — After years of delays, ground was officially broken Friday on Ballpark Village in St. Louis, with plans to have attractions such as a Cardinals Hall of Fame and restaurant, a massive Anheuser-Busch-themed bar and a live entertainment plaza in place by Opening Day 2014.
The project will be developed on the site of the old Busch Stadium, adjacent to the new one that opened in 2006.
"We saw an opportunity to enhance the game day experience for our fans with a project unlike any other in baseball," said Bill DeWitt Jr., chairman and chief executive officer for the Cardinals.
Ballpark Village was first envisioned 12 years ago, six years before the new stadium was built, with the Cardinals promising it as part of a deal for more than $200 million in state and local subsidies to help construct the new stadium. Lavish plans initially projected shopping, entertainment, 400,000 square feet of office space, a 21-story condominium tower, even an aquarium.
But one snag after another ensued. Would-be tenants backed out; the project was redesigned several times; financing became difficult when the economy soured in 2008. In the meantime, the rock and weed covered lot became something of an embarrassment. The Cardinals eventually put a small softball field on the spot to at least stop water from pooling.
Blake Cordish of the Cordish Cos., the developer working with the Cardinals, lauded the team for its persistence. He said the project will offer a great experience not only for fans on game days, but for residents and tourists year-round.
"It's a unique site in the heart of a great city in partnership with a world-class organization," Cordish said.
The Ballpark Village project received $17 million in state and federal incentives.
The project will include a large building north of the stadium that will house a venue called "Cardinals Nation" on 30,000 square feet over three levels. Cardinals Nation will have three parts: A two-story restaurant, a Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, and a roof deck featuring more than 300 seats that peer directly into the stadium. The roof deck will also have three patios and two bars.
A second building will house a two-story, 20,000-square-foot "Budweiser Brew House," showcasing Anheuser-Busch's history in St. Louis. It will include a deck overlooking the stadium and an outdoor beer garden.
Phase 1 will also include an entertainment area known as "Ballpark Village Live!"— complete with a 40-foot LED screen above a stage. The team expects it to be a popular gathering place on game days, but Cordish said it will also host more than 100 events throughout the year, such as festivals, concerts and art fairs.
Mayor Francis Slay said he expects Ballpark Village to attract countless visitors to a downtown area that's also expecting to benefit from a multimillion-dollar planned upgrade of the Gateway Arch grounds and the area around the Arch.
"It's been a long time coming," Slay said of Ballpark Village. "It has been a very much anticipated event."
Offices, shopping and housing are expected to be part of future development that could reach $700 million and cover seven blocks, the Cardinals said.
"I have no doubt that Ballpark Village will be the envy of all of baseball and something we'll take pride in for generations," DeWitt said.