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 But the ballpark has been showing its years of late, with peeling paint and outdated facilities limiting the attractiveness and usefulness of one of Durham's true historic places.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.