Durham Bulls Athletic Park was already a must-visit for any baseball fan: the iconic ballpark is the heart of baseball in North Carolina. That experience was upgraded smartly in 2014 with a $20-million renovation, a thoughtful effort that earns DPAP and the Durham Bulls recognition for Best Ballpark Renovation over $2 Million in the 2014 annual awards from Ballpark Digest.
“North Carolina truly is the Cradle of the Game, and the Durham Bulls are at the center of that baseball tradition,” said Kevin Reichard, Ballpark Digest publisher. “Going to a game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a great time, and the many improvements to the ballpark only enhances that experience.”
“This renovation project aimed to take the DBAP to new heights while retaining the aura that makes it a very special place,” said Durham Bulls General Manager Mike Birling. “From advancing ballpark technology to state-of-the-art levels to adding more areas for fans to congregate and socialize, the upgrades not only enriched the fan experience but modernized a stadium that will continue to be a destination throughout baseball.”
“The ambitious undertaking really set the tone for a historic season, as it laid the groundwork for a tremendous 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game and a new single-season paid attendance record,” Birling continued.
All in all, the renovation money was spread throughout the ballpark: there were upgrades to lighting, turf, seating, sound and concessions; a revamping of the ballpark’s exterior (no more pillars and gates); new videoboards; and the PNC Triangle Club.
The PNC Triangle Club is a large space (5,000 square feet) directly behind home plate, available on a membership basis to season-ticket holders. Fans can either watch the game in padded seats outside the club area or in box seats behind home plate. A full array of concessions – carving station, dessert bar, soft drinks – is available as well. If a distraction is needed, there are 17 high-def TVs and padded seats. Besides serving 225 fans during a game, it can be used year-round for non-game-day events.
Three new high-def videoboards were installed at the ballpark, with the left-field “Blue Monster” videoboard three times the size of the old one. The old manual scoreboard, however, is still at the DBAP – it’s now closer to center field. Another impressive technological upgrade to the park was installation of a robust Wi-Fi network that hosts up to 8,000 simultaneous users.
Food has always been good at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, but now it’s more accessible: 20 new concessions stands were installed.
There was one other big change that shows itself in small ways: new areas to just stand around and watch the game. The original ballpark configuration was designed at a time when fans were expected to spend most of the game in their seat. Now there are open areas around the seating bowl, including the 10,000-squar-foot Jackie’s Landing along the first base line, designed just for fans who want to stand around and watch the game with friends.
“If you look at the changes, none of them were necessarily earth shattering,” Reichard said. “But taken together, they represent a total change in the fan experience changed at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. It’s always been one of the most charming ballparks in baseball, and now it’s even more of an essential experience for any fan.”
Images courtesy of the Durham Bulls.
Each year Ballpark Digest honors noteworthy accomplishments in the baseball world: Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent baseball, summer-collegiate baseball and college baseball. Here’s a list of the 2014 awards, both already awarded and to come:
Broadcaster of the Year: Steve Klauke, Salt Lake Bees
Best New Logo / Branding: Akron RubberDucks
Organization of the Year: Big Top Baseball
Best MiLB Promotion: Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Best Summer Collegiate Promotion: Kalamazoo Growlers
Editor’s Choice: Granderson Stadium, University of Illinois at Chicago
Best New Food Item: BIG APPLE, Fort Wayne TinCaps
Best Ballpark Improvement: Ferris wheel, Quad Cities River Bandits
Best Ballpark Renovation Under $2 Million
Best Ballpark Renovation Over $2 Million
Nov. 12: Team of the Year, Best Marketing, Executive of the Year, Best New Ballpark (announced in weekly newsletter)