WORCESTER [July 11] – The ball is officially rolling on Worcester’s highly-anticipated baseball stadium.

Gathered at a parking lot on the corners of Plymouth and Washington Streets in the Canal District, more than 1,000 stood in what will soon be the left field of Polar Park – future home of the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

City, state, and federal officials mingled with executives from the Worcester Red Sox, Gilbane-Hunt, D’Agostino Izzo Quirk Associates, and Skanska USA Building Inc. among other community leaders and fans to remark on the occasion and ceremonially break ground on the approximately $100 million-project.

While significant construction likely won’t start until the fall, in his remarks, Larry Lucchino, principal owner and chairman of the current Pawtucket Red Sox, noted that the ballpark is expected to be ready for opening day of the April 2021 season.

Thursday’s ceremonial groundbreaking came almost a year after the announcement that the Triple A affiliate planned to move from Pawtucket, R.I. to Worcester.

And no better place for their new home than a city of firsts for the sport.

Long-time baseball park designer and Worcester Women's Leadership Conference keynote speaker, Janet Marie Smith, joined in the celebration Thursday lat will soon be Polar Park in the Canal District. / PHOTO BY EMILY GOWDEY-BACKUS

Long-time baseball park designer and Worcester Women’s Leadership Conference keynote speaker, Janet Marie Smith, joined in the celebration Thursday lat will soon be Polar Park in the Canal District. / PHOTO BY EMILY GOWDEY-BACKUS

From the iconic poem “Casey at the Bat” to the first perfect game pitched by J. Lee Richmond in 1880 on what is now Becker College’s campus to Ted Williams’ first home run in a Red Sox uniform, the Heart of the Commonwealth has a long history tied to America’s favorite pastime.

“Our city has left its mark on the game and today is a day in which Worcester will once again put its thumbprint” on the sport, said Major Joseph Petty Thursday.

The park is at the center of a larger, $240 million redevelopment of 18 acres led by Boston-based Madison Properties. Surrounding the ballpark will be 250 market-rate apartments, two hotels totaling 250 rooms, a 96,000-square-foot office building, 65,000 new square feet of retail and restaurant space, and a 500-plus-space parking lot.

Complimenting the redevelopment is a comprehensive analysis of Kelley Square, annually ranked among the most-dangerous intersections in the Commonwealth, headed by local and state departments.

The City of Worcester expects this nearly-two-year-long project to create hundreds of full-time and part-time jobs in both construction and trade industries.

Wednesday, on the Chamber’s weekly Voice of Business podcast, City Manager Edward M. Augustus said “woo-ing” the team to Worcester has been a two-year effort.

Mr. Augustus explained it was a year of negotiations followed by a second of designing, hiring, and acquiring the property that paved the path to making Polar Park a reality.

At Thursday’s groundbreaking he followed up the interview stating: “This is a story of a new Worcester. Gone are the doubts, replaced by confidence.”

The park is designed for a capacity of 10,000 and is expected to host 125 year-round events including Minor League Baseball games, road races, concerts, collegiate and high school sporting events, fireworks displays, and other community events.

Now just about 21 months away, the countdown to the first pitch is on.

Dominique Goyette-Connerty is an intern with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and a recent graduate of Fitchburg State University. She can be reached via email.