Randall Reed and Bill Fick, co-owners of Hillcrest Ford, broke ground Wednesday morning at Hillcrest’s planned expansion site on Interstate-45 South, as a host of community members applauded.

The 11.9-acre facility is expected to open by November 2007 and — in addition to Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealerships — will include a coffee bar, lounge area, dominoes tables, a museum detailing Huntsville’s history in congruency with Ford Automotive’s history and even a cattle roping arena.

As nontraditional as it sounds, Reed said it is all part of the “Autotainment” idea he has helped foster alongside designer and Autotainment Ventures L.L.C. president Michael Graves.

Reed said he sees the new Hillcrest Ford becoming a business icon for the area.

“When people think of Huntsville we want them to think of Hillcrest Ford. When people see it, we want them to do a double take,” Reed said.

Other proposed additions to the expansion even include a community center.

“We want to create an enjoyable experience for the customer where they can come and relax and feel comfortable,” said Reed.

Graves thanked city officials for their cooperation in helping designers pick an area for development.

“The whole city planning department has been unbelievable,” Graves said. “I can’t say enough good things about how helpful they have been.”

Graves said the designers fully intend to have Hillcrest Ford’s new incarnation blend seamlessly with the city.

“We see Huntsville as a big small town and that’s what we have designed this new facility around,” he said.

— Clarification: In Tuesday’s paper, Reed’s name was inadvertently left out as co-owner of Hillcrest Ford.

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