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Ground Broken On Long-Awaited Ballpark Village

After years of delays, work on Ballpark Village in St. Louis is finally under way.

The St. Louis Cardinals broke ground on Friday on the $100 million first phase of the project that will be developed on the site of the old Busch Stadium, next to the new stadium.

Ballpark Village was part of the development agreement between the city and the Cardinals when planning for the new stadium began back in 1999.  As it stands the team says phase one will be accessible to fans as of Opening Day 2014.

Bill DeWitt Jr. is the team’s chairman and principal owner.  Since the beginning, he says the Cardinals saw an opportunity to do something more than just replace an aging ballpark.

“We saw an opportunity to enhance the game-day experience for our fans with a project unlike any other in baseball,” says DeWitt.  “We also saw the opportunity to create a year-round destination that could serve as a catalyst for the development renaissance already underway downtown.”

The project is being developed by Baltimore-based Cordish Company and has been delayed by a series of redesigns as well as the weak economy.  Ultimately the team struck a deal worth $17 million in state and city incentives.

"I just remember the early concept renderings, that was in the late 90's", says team President Bill DeWitt III.

It's been DeWitt's (DeWitt Jr.'s son) primary job to bring this project to fruition for well over a decade.

"Just to be able to transition into the design and construction phase is going to be exciting, and I think the fans will enjoy it as the cranes go up throughout the season," said DeWitt III.

And the enthusiasm on a cold February day wasn't just on the Cardinals side of the camp peaking to a crowd of civic leaders St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay praised the Cardinals for their corporate citizenship.

"They are a classy, quality organization, they do wonderful job of supporting and presenting an outstanding team," remarked Slay.  "Not only are we proud of them on the field, but we’re also proud of them off the field.  They do so much for this community.”

Phase one of the development will include a Cardinals-themed Hall-of-Fame Museum featuring a 300-seat deck overlooking the stadium, as well as a "Budweiser Brew House" showcasing Anheuser-Busch's history in St. Louis.

Follow Adam Allington on Twitter:  @aallington