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Official Review by Harrison Huntley, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Up until 1995, the Durham Athletic Park was one of the best parks in the minor leagues. It has since been replaced by the newer Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Durham Athletic Park was then rarely used for more than 10 years before the NCCU Eagles moved in. If this park looks familiar to you, then you probably remember it from the movie Bull Durham. The DAP was the main setting for the movie and was the home of the real Durham Bulls until 1994. In 2007, NCCU expanded its athletic programs and included baseball. The DAP was a logical home field for the Eagles, who have played there ever since.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The concession stand is located in the grass area on the first base side. The offerings are limited, with only hot dogs, Pepsi drinks, and basic snacks. Prices are about average for a stadium of this size. One upsetting point is that the stadium's original concession stands are no longer in use. The stand-alone building is original, but those attached to the ballpark itself are not used.
Overall, this is just a great place to catch a game. The nine inning scoreboard overlooks what is a beautifully kept field. The Durham Bulls recently purchased the contract to maintain the DAP, and they do an amazing job. Free admission gives you access to anywhere in the park and there are many seating options. If you want to sit close, there are four rows of stadium seats that put you almost on the field. Behind those rows are benches, but they are not usually necessary. Finally, you can sit on either of the lawn areas on each side of the field. This atmosphere is only enhanced with the presence of a great announcer and good music selection. The announcer is in the game and excited from the pre-game to the final pitch. The music played is pretty good but made better by the themed songs, such as "Everybody Talks" during a manager argument.
The ballpark sits right in the heart of Durham, which is good news if you enjoy pre-game or post-game activities. Durham has become known in recent years for its large variety of restaurants, shops, and other interests. I'll only be highlighting a few, but make sure to do your own research if you plan on visiting.
For an extraordinary sports bar experience, check out Tobacco Road sports cafe. The Durham location is incredibly unique, because it overlooks Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The restaurant's patio is a part of the Bulls' left field monster. Along with the multiple TVs and great food, it is a sports fan's heaven.
Also worth mentioning is Dame's Chicken and Waffles. Dame's is a restaurant that in recent years has become so popular that reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance. While the wait is usually around 30 minutes, a reservation will save you some time. Once in the restaurant, you have a variety of options for chicken and waffles. They also feature a kind of flavored butter called schmeres. Known for dressing up the chicken and waffle, this place is a can't-miss for any lover of comfort food.
It's quite obvious that almost all of the fans are family and friends of the athletes. While not a bad thing, it doesn't promote the same atmosphere as a ballpark filled with just fans. There are no catchy cheers or fan traditions. The fans are there simply to see a friend or family member play college baseball. That being said, don't mistake these fans as quiet. They come early, stay late and know when to cheer. They know every player by name (some personally) and are always encouraging.
Durham itself is not hard to find. There are two major highways that lead to the city (I-85 and I-40), and getting in the city is usually not hard. The DAP however, is not close to either of the highways. It is deep into the city, making it tough for non-locals to find. A simple GPS should be enough to get you there.
Once at the stadium, parking is usually easy to find, as the stadium's lot is small but doesn't fill up very fast. If needed, there is street parking and other parking options available, most for free.
If the best things in life are free, then a NCCU baseball game is one of them. There is no admission cost, and fans are free to sit wherever they like. With concession prices low, I suppose the only question is why not come to a game? Free tickets, free parking, and minimal concessions give even the casual fan a reason to come. Adding in the priceless cost of seeing the set of Bull Durham, the decision is a no-brainer.
NCCU provides free streaming for all of its games. With many teams making fans pay for streaming access, this is a huge value.
The Durham Athletic Park and the surrounding buildings were the setting for the famous movie Bull Durham. Since the park has changed very little since the movie was filmed, walking around the ballpark is almost surreal.
The city of Durham, the Bulls, and NCCU have partnered together to create a great mix of Hollywood, history, and the present day. The stadium looks the same as it does in the movie, which was a typical minor league ballpark for its time. Thankfully, the stadium has been slightly upgraded since then, and still presents a quality baseball experience. If you like the movie, history, or just free baseball, then a game at the DAP is for you.
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280 S Mangum St
Durham, NC 27701
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