Lakewood keeps Y, gets middle school in the bargain
Watts-Hillandale the focus of weekend's Old Durham Home Tour

DAP breaks ground today, begins half-year's construction

At 9 a.m. this morning, look for a crowd to gather at the block bounded by Foster, Corporation, Morris and Geer Streets, as the venerable old Durham Athletic Park project breaks ground. Local residents as well as the media are invited to see Mayor Bell, city manager Patrick Baker, and Minor League Baseball CEO Pat O'Conner turn shovels with NCCU chancellor Charlie Nelms and Capitol Broadcasting head Jim Goodmon.

Retired from use by the Durham Bulls since 1994, the park has continued in a new life as the home for events like the Bull Durham Blues Festival, World Beer Festival, and as a ballpark for Durham School of the Arts. But the ballpark has been showing its years of late, with peeling paint and outdated facilities limiting the attractiveness and usefulness of one of Durham's true historic places.

In 2005, Durham voters approved a $4 million bond issue to renovate the DAP; the City brought in Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse to evaluate the park and to understand its future uses. At the same time, Durham worked to strike up a partnership with Minor League Baseball, which was interested in using the DAP as a training ground for umpires, groundskeepers, park managers and other staff.

The result? The DAP's renovation (since pegged at $5 million -- the remaining $1 million coming from interest earned on unspent bond funds) would allow the park to maintain its existing uses, as well as to become the home for NCCU's college baseball team,with MiLB operating the park under a contract with the City.

Incidentally, Barry Jacobs (chair of the Orange County Commission, and a rabid sports fan) has written quite possibly the best account I've seen of the DAP's renaissance over at wral.com. It's a must-read if you're interested in the project.

One catch in the project: the new DAP won't be looking dapper in time for this year's usual slate of fall events. Initially, the work had been scheduled to be underway already and to wrap up in time for this autumn's typical users. The current date for completion, though, is December 2008.

The Bull Durham Blues Festival, a fundraiser for the Hayti Heritage Center, has already announced it will hold this year's event in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park over by American Tobacco.

We can imagine that will be quite a hardship for the festival. After all, they'll have to endure having parking garages right on site; restaurants in walking distance; fully-outfitted concession stands; and, oh yeah, a much larger venue.

When you put it that way -- I wonder whether the blues festival might not just want to stay over at the DBAP? It's certainly a good venue for this sort of event.

Not, of course, that the DAP isn't, and there's a magic and charm in its history that continue to make it a little piece of Durham that's well worth saving.

Comments

AR

Allaboutbeer.com says that the 2008 World Beer Festival will take place on October 4, 2008 at The Historic Durham Athletic Park. I wonder where they will move it. Beer Fest is one of my favorite nights of the year!

Joshua

I hope I just don't understand the statement:
... the remaining $1 million coming from interest earned on unspent bond funds ...

But how do we earn interest on unspent bond funds? In order to get money the City sells bonds which *pay* interest. If we are selling bonds *before* we need the money, then we are paying more interest on the bond than we are gaining by the cash sitting in the bank. This sounds like voodoo math and if the City is really playing this type of game, they are wasting taxpayer dollars! And $1 million in interest means a lot of cash sitting idly and more than $1 million in interest that the City is paying out. Of course, that wouldn't really surprise me in this city but it's time we citizens put a stop to crap like this. Please tell me I misunderstand.

barry

Joshua - i'm pretty sure the technical term used by economists is "smoke and mirrors."

I could be wrong, though. I stopped taking econ classes after my first year in grad school.

David Rollins

Joshua's right, it's a waste of money. If, however, you think about it from a developer's point of view (with the city being a "developer" in this instance), it's much more preferable to have the money in hand before you start negotiating to develop the project. Otherwise the voters might not like the project and reject the bonds. For this reason bond issues are always sold as feel-good measures without any concrete plans, both to ensure their passage and to place minimal limits on the use of the funds. Now that the city has the bond money it "has" to be spent.

Of course I'd rather see the city do more to help the poor than pay for another stupid-ass project such as this or the performing arts center; people on food stamps don't need to go see "Rent" as much as they need to pay their property taxes. But I digress.

Allen

I agree, however I would like to see a MiLB Hall of Fame built next to the old DAP.

JC Lately

Renovating the DAP, building the MiLB Fan Experience will to more to help lower income families in the long run than simply handing out money. What does giving someone cash do for them, food for a week? Housing for a month? Then what? Economic Development brings opportunities, cash to the community and jobs. What would be good to see is some money going to job training so we can foster job creation with the new DAP for those that cannot find work elsewhere.

I'm sure we can all point to any number of projects as stupid. However, we must continue to revitalize Durham and projects like the DAP and the Performing Arts Center are part of that equation, no different than American Tabacco, West Villiage, and Golden Belt.. If we don't create amenities that attract visitors and benefit all economic levels then we will see a city in decline and only add to the public burden stemming from increase numbers of lower income families.

KeepDurhamDifferent!

I'm not arguing against amenities, I'm arguing against taking food out of people's mouths to fund them. Your line of thinking just leads to more corporate welfare for the developers. If there is demand for the MiLB museum, it should be funded by charging admission or corporate rental fees (concerts, world beerfest, ballgames, etc.).

I had no idea the purpose of renovating the DAP was to "create jobs". Isn't that the job of the private sector?

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