Durham Bulls Athletic Park – Durham Bulls
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Hit the Bull, Enjoy the Game
The Durham Bulls are easily one of the most famous minor league franchises in baseball. That fame comes from the 1988 film “Bull Durham,” a box-office hit that still tops critics lists as one of the best baseball films of all time. However, the club has a long and storied history before and since the movie. The first Durham team was known as the Tobacconists in 1902, ten years later the club would adopt the Bulls moniker.
For nearly all of its history, they played at the original Durham Athletic Park (known locally as the DAP). The old wooden bandbox was full of charm and thankfully, it still stands at its original location a short distance to the north. Perhaps, the popularity of the film allowed for the construction of a new Durham Bulls Athletic Park (D-BAP) in 1995.
The current park has undergone numerous renovations and expansions in its relatively short life. No longer the scrappy losers of their film counterparts, the Bulls made the jump to the Triple-A International League in 1998 the same year they began their current affiliation with the Tampa Bay Rays. This necessitated the first large restructuring of the park to its current 10,000-seat capacity. There have been five major renovations to the park, including changes in 2014 that nearly redesigned the park completely.
Food & Beverage 5
The Durham Bulls Athletic Park has a near major-league selection of food and drinks to keep you fed, going so far as to brew beer in the park itself.There’s tons of ballpark grub to choose from.
The majority of food is on the main promenade in simply named concessions (HOT DOGS, BURGERS, BBQ, etc), or restaurant specific stands around the park. The main concessions are specialty dogs ($4-7), specialty burgers ($6-$8), wings ($8-$10), various sausages ($6-$7), the popular bacon on a stick ($5-$6), BBQ sandwiches and platters ($8.50-$12), and pizza ($4 a slice or $20 for a pie).
The Bull Durham Beer Company is brewing suds right at the top of the main entrance of the park, exhaling the smell of fermenting hops to everyone as they make their way up the stairs to the park. Varieties include the Lollygagger Kolch and Water Tower Wheat.
Bud, Miller, Fat Tire, Corona, Blue Moon, and Yuengling are served up more widely, including the Budweiser Bar on the Jackie Robinson Landing. Lynnwood Brewing Company, Old Hickory, Goose Island, Bull City Cider, White Street, Sierra Nevada, and Brooklyn Brewery are also on tap around the park at their own kiosks or other concessions. The cost of beer runs around $7, but all beer can be upgraded to a larger mason jar for $4 more. Woodbridge Winery even gets in on the act with their own shack in left field. Pepsi is the non-alcoholic drinks of choice around the park ($4 for a regular and $5 for a souvenir cup).
DBAP features an evocative brick facade that is ever-present around the park.The area in the outfield is further elevated with stairs leading up and down in left and right field from plazas in those respective fields. Company and condo building of downtown Durham provide a backdrop for the baseball and the famous bull sign stands out proudly in left field..
Visitors can enjoy a walk around the outfield promenade that provides great views of the action and a trip around the park is definitely worth it. Overhangs provide shade and rain coverage from about first to third base.
Wool E. Bull is the beloved Bulls mascot and is part of the event from the opening of the gates to after the last pitch. He gets mobbed wherever he goes in the park-it is good to be the bull. He and the fan service team run the events between inning breaks, and while most are minor league standard silly contests and races, there are several events special to DBAP.
In their take on the character race, the Bull Durham Racers (giant foam-suited Nuke, Crash, and Annie from the movie) take a run around the park. And in a rare nod to the grounds crew, the “Diamond Cutters” come out and do a YMCA-ish frenetic dance number in the top of the seventh while dragging the infield.
Terrace View seats are probably the best bang for your buck. Outfield reserved seats offer a fine view of the game, but be prepared to deal with the sun until it sets in the middle innings. Protective netting has been extended full-height to the ends of each dugout, you’ll need to go further out to see a completely unobstructed view of the game.
Duke University is a mile or so to the west of the park, and it plays a big role in the goings on of the greater Durham area, providing a fairly recent renaissance and revitalization of the town.There are a ton of places to eat and drink in Durham’s, and it depends on where you go.
The historic American Tobacco Campus adjacent to the ballpark has the Mellow Mushroom (pizza), Tyler’s Restaurant and Taproom (pub grub), Cuban Revolution, Basan Bull (sushi), Nana Steak, and the Tobacco Road Sports Cafe (pub grub).
Slightly north on Main Street is another clutch of dozens of eateries in the area known as the Loop. There are streets and numbered alleys rife with destinations, including Revolution (American), Bull City Burgers, Taberna Tapas, Toast (Italian), Old Havana Sandwich Shop, and Scratch (American). If you’re looking for fancy cocktails, live music, and bar eats, try out Alley Twenty-Six.
The Duke Performing Arts Center is active all summer, as is the Duke Lemur Center, an unexpected stop that is likely to be popular with the kids. The nearby Museum of Life + Science will handle the kiddies as well if they want more animals than lemurs, and the 21c Museum and the Durham Performing Arts Center will help satisfy art lovers looking for more.
The university driven nightlife is to be had in the Brightleaf District, while the American Tobacco Historic District (steps from the park) and Bennett Place Historic site is great for shoppers and diners who can take advantage of the shops and restaurants.
The new Aloft Durham Downtown is steps from the outfield gate, while further up the road are the artsy 21c Museum Hotel, the Durham Hotel, and the Durham Marriott City Center. However, you will have to head out of town on I-85 before you hit anything reasonably inexpensive.
The Bulls are in top half to top quarter of the International League attendance figures averaging nearly 80% capacity. There are a large contingent of families just out for an evening, but there are a sizable core of hardcore baseball fans and Bull-backers. The fans enjoy the in between inning contest and are loud throughout the ballgame.
Durham Bulls Athletic Park is located right off of S.R. 147, about a mile south of I-85 and two miles east of the big interchange with 85 and S.R. 501.
There is an extensive transit system. GoDurham bus lines 10, 10A, 10S, 5, 5K, and 7 ($1 single fare/$2 day pass) all serve Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Forward-thinking, the Bulls have even teamed up with Uber, giving first-time visitors to the park a $20 credit on a ride to or from the game with the code DURHAMBULLS.
There are four lots for parking pass holders, but visitors can use the $5 South Parking Deck at American Tobacco. Other city lots further away only go for $3 or less if you’re in the mood for a walk. If you show up early enough after the work parking clears out at 5 PM, you may also be able to grab a free street space, but those get snagged especially quickly so don’t plan on it.
Return on Investment 4
The Durham Bulls offer one of the cheapest tickets in the minor leagues, not just Triple-A. Tickets start at $10 for a lower-level seat, but you must purchase a $5 concessions credit in addition to the seats. That is not a problem, since spending $5 means maybe a drink or two. Upper-level seats under the cover are also $10, with no required concessions purchase. Other upper-level seats are $9, outfield seats are $7, and when necessary, the team will sell grass seats for $6. Just looking around the area, the Bulls offer the second-cheapest ticket prices in the state of NC, and are a Triple-A team.
A $10 ticket, $5 parking, a $3.25 hot dog, and a $3 soda make Bulls games $21.25 per person, which is an absolute steal. Without question, this is one of the best values in sports.
One extra point for perhaps the most iconic “Hit Bull, Win Steak, Hit Grass, Win Salad” sign in left field. It has a place of honor at the park. It lights up with each Bulls home run, as well.
Another extra point for exterior third-base side of the park’s commemorative walk with tiles celebrating accomplishments, affiliations, former management, announcers, and players-even the real Crash Davis.
The entrance plaza is flanked by fountains and statues of children playing baseball. The seating plaza overlooks the main entrance and has an exhibit painted on the brick columns about the history of baseball cards, along with bull statues, and a nearby giant plastic Wool E. Bull on a bench, always ready for pictures.
An additional point for the retired numbers of Crash Davis, Chipper Jones, Joe Morgan, Bill Evers, Charlie Montoyo, and Jackie Robinson.
One final point for the main team store at the center of the entrance plaza flanked on the right by an outpost of the hand-made East Coast Bat Company.
Durham Bulls Athletic Park is one of the true gems of the minor leagues. The team uses the slogan “Famous for Fun,” and it is hard to argue with them. Durham Bulls Athletic Park is one of the best parks in the minors in nearly every area, and it is backed by one of the best fan bases in minor league baseball.
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