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Durham Bulls Athletic Park

Durham, NC

Home of the 2013 ACC Baseball Tournament

4.4

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Durham Bulls Athletic Park (map it)
409 Blackwell St
Durham, NC 27701


2013 ACC Baseball Tournament website

Durham Bulls Athletic Park website

Year Opened: 1995

Capacity: 10,000

There are no tickets available at this time.

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2013 ACC Baseball Tournament

Considering the success of the 2012 ACC baseball tournament in Greensboro's NewBridge Bank Park, it could be quite easy to wonder what the conference could do for an encore. The 2012 affair featured the largest crowd in ACC tournament and North Carolina college baseball history, as 10,229 fans saw the North Carolina Tar Heels claim a 12-inning, 4-0 victory over the North Carolina State Wolfpack on the night before the championship final.

Even more history was made in Greensboro, as the eighth-seeded Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets became the first club with that seed to win the ACC tournament. Georgia Tech defeated sixth-seeded Miami 8-5 in the final to earn their eighth ACC tournament crown.

The 2013 edition moved down Interstate 85 to Durham Bulls Athletic Park, and the traditions of underdogs and record crowds also made the trip. The conference was fortunate to have another North Carolina-NC State matchup in prime time, but this one was much closer to both schools' campuses – and, more importantly, fan bases.

4.4

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    5

With the tournament being played in a triple-A park, one would expect the food choices to be plentiful, and this is certainly the case at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The majority of the concourse is lined with fixed stands and carts, serving almost any cuisine one might prefer. Mexican chain Moe's Southwest Grill has a stand, featuring burritos with chicken, beef or tofu, nachos and salads (all $7.75).

Local restaurants also have a presence at the DBAP. North Carolina favorite Natty Greene's has a stand, featuring such hot dogs as the Nuke Dog (spicy hot dog with spicy relish), New York style dog, Carolina "que" dog (pulled pork barbecue and cole slaw on a hot dog), Georgia style dog (cole slaw, onions and relish) and Chicago style dog. The hot dogs range in price between $4 and $6.50, depending on the choice of dog. Fried pickle spears, another specialty in the south, are also available at Natty Greene's for $5.

Fellow local establishment Carolina Brewery is just down the way, offering additional hot dog choices. Johnsonville brats, Italian sausages and spicy Italian sausages are available, with each priced at $5. Additional options include Philly cheese steak and Philly chicken sandwiches ($6.50), grilled cheese on Texas toast ($3) and garlic or sweet potato fries ($4.75). It is important to note that beer is not sold at college baseball events at the DBAP.

A grill option is in a fixed stand along the first base line, offering burgers, hot dogs and wings. A grilled third-pound burger is available for $6.25 ($7.25 with bacon added). Turkey burgers and veggie burgers can also be purchased from the grill, along with what are called "wings around the world". This is a $6.50 order of wings, with your choice of six sauces (barbecue, sweet teriyaki, golden barbecue, sweet red chili, cajun or buffalo). Local establishment The Pit also operates a stand nearby, selling Carolina favorite barbecue sandwiches for $6.

If your sweet tooth is calling for your attention, there are plenty of places to handle these cravings. Locopops (ice cream and other flavors made into a popsicle), funnel cakes, Rita's Italian Ice and more establishments have stands or carts along the concourse. Cracker Jacks, candy and other selections are also available at the fixed stands.

Pepsi is the bottler for the ballpark, with different beverage choices and sizes at each stand. Gatorade is available for $4 per bottle, while regular fountain sodas are $2.25, souvenir sodas are $3.50 and bottled soda is $3.50. Bottled water is $3 from most stands.

One more item of note: expect lines. Even with all of these choices available, the lines tend to back up quite a bit, especially during heavily-attended games. The lines move quickly, but there will be delays in getting food or drink.

Atmosphere    5

Simply put, Durham Bulls Athletic Park is one of the more visually stunning ballparks around. It is often said that downtown ballparks help to spur development, and the ballpark district in Durham is no exception. Law offices, banks, television stations, restaurants and more take up residence in the buildings just beyond the outfield walls, all with patios and large windows facing the field of play. This look gives the feeling that the ballpark is truly integrated into the downtown design, instead of just being an ill-fitting part.

The iconic bull looms above the wall in left field, with the "Hit Bull Win Steak" and "Hit Grass Win Salad" text made famous in the film Bull Durham over twenty-five years ago emblazoned across the sign. That left field wall is somewhat iconic itself, dubbed the "Blue Monster". The board is obviously modeled after the board in Fenway Park, with lush foliage and a grass berm beyond the wall in center field.

The main entry gate gives fans a view of the facade of the building and the entrance to the team store. Staircases line either side of the building, leading to the main seating bowl. An elevator is also available to the left of the stairs, for those who may not be able to navigate the steps. There is an inner concourse that rings the seating bowl, with an outer concourse leading around the "food court" area. The outer concourse rings the ballpark, with a few detours here and there.

The inner concourse divides the lower level of seating from the upper level, which may cause some occasional sight line concerns for the front row of the upper seats as patrons pass by to the food court, restrooms or seats. The upper level of seats may prove more fruitful for day games, as the tin roof provides some shade to the upper seats. Each fixed seat is a standard ballpark chair seat, with the requisite amount of comfort found within.

The main scoreboard takes up residence in the large blue wall in left field. Just as the wall itself is modeled after that in Fenway Park, the scoreboard is similarly designed. The game's line score is displayed in a manual fashion, with ball/strike/out indicator lights located at the bottom of the board. A small video board is located above the line score, displaying the photo and statistics of the current batter, along with occasional commercials and alternate video content.

Neighborhood    4

The surrounding neighborhood around Durham Bulls Athletic Park is undergoing a bit of a revitalization. Once the home of numerous tobacco companies, the area is beginning to take the shape of a typical modern downtown district.

The American Tobacco campus is the highlight of this district. Located just across Blackwell Street from the ballpark, this once-dead complex has taken on a second life as a series of restaurants, entertainment establishments and events centers. Everything from fine dining (L'Uva Enoteca and Cuban Revolution) to casual restaurants (Mellow Mushroom and Tobacco Road) and in between can be found for pre-game, between-game or post-game noshing. There are parking decks at the north and south ends of the campus, with a water feature and numerous other points of interest throughout the campus.

As beautiful as the American Tobacco Historic District may be, be sure not to stray too far from the immediate vicinity of the ballpark. There are still areas within walking distance of the ballpark that are less than desirable, particularly as the evening starts to wear on. A Durham Area Transit Authority bus station is located near the north parking deck, and the riders of these buses frequently mill around the area. As with most downtown districts, it is best to be aware of your surroundings if you are out late at night.

Fans    4

This tournament has experienced three separate record crowds in the last two years. The 2012 edition featured the largest crowd in ACC tournament and North Carolina college baseball history, as we referenced earlier. The 2013 tournament featured another all-time record in both categories, as 11,329 fans filed into Durham Bulls Athletic Park to watch the Saturday evening matchup between North Carolina and NC State. The atmosphere for that game was nearly indescribable, as fans from both schools seemed to hang on every pitch. The game went 18 innings, ending well into the overnight hours, and few fans had departed their seats at the time the final pitch was thrown.

North Carolina and Virginia Tech then set another record just hours later, as 8,697 fans watched the tournament championship game, an all-time high. The crowd was predominantly clad in Carolina blue, as one would imagine, but the Hokie fans also made an impressive showing as their club competed for a title.

These games aside, however, many of the crowds were less than stellar. Many of the crowds hovered around 3,000 fans per game, producing very little of the same feel of the championship game and the game immediately preceding it the night before. The ACC has utilized pool play in their tournament, leading to the perception among fans that many of the games in the tournament do not matter. Whether right or wrong, this perception affects crowd size and participation in many cases. The ACC will switch to a modified ten-team double-elimination bracket in 2014, and it will be interesting to see how this affects fan turnout.

Access    4

Durham Bulls Athletic Park is within feet of the Durham Freeway (NC Highway 147), making ingress and egress quite easy. Though some of the crowds were quite large for some games, local law enforcement did a stellar job of routing fans away from the park and on to their destinations. North Carolina Interstates 85 and 40 are within a few miles along the Durham Freeway. US Highways 15 and 501 are within blocks of the park, along with other surface streets that allow motorists to traverse downtown Durham.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport is located in Morrisville, approximately a 15-minute drive via Interstate 40 and the Durham Freeway. Most major carriers (including Southwest) service RDU, so air travel should not prove to be a large concern. Should you wish to take a DATA (Durham Area Transit Authority) bus, the Durham Station is along Pettigrew Street, just a few blocks from the park.

We mentioned earlier that there are two concourses inside Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The "outer" concourse (on which all of the concessions are located) does not have an open view of the field, while the "inner" concourse does allow you to continue to view the action. To this end, there are televisions at each major concession area to allow fans to keep up with the action on the field while waiting in line for food or drinks. This is a nice touch, as the only time you will miss anything on the field - when going to get food, anyway - occurs during the walk from the tunnel to your preferred concession area.

There are restrooms on the first and third base sides of the park, and they are clean and well-appointed. Be careful when choosing your time to go to the restroom, however, as I saw lines at least ten fans deep outside the restroom at times, particularly during the North Carolina-NC State game.

Return on Investment    4

Ticket prices are quite reasonable at the ACC tournament, with single-game tickets priced at $10, championship game tickets at $15 and "team passes" (the three games of pool play for your preferred team) at $24. This allows for some slight savings, if you are interested in the games for just one team.

This said, there are a couple of items of which fans should be aware. First, the ACC limited "sessions" to one game for both 2012 and 2013. The purchase of the aforementioned $10 ticket required fans to clear the stadium after the completion of the game, unless the ticket holder was in possession of an all-tournament pass. This is an obvious - though understandable - way for the ACC to best monetize their tournament. It did, however, lead to monstrous lines outside the stadium while games were going on and/or the stadium was being turned over between games, culminating in a sea of blue and red waiting outside for the Saturday night game.

It also needs to be noted that, with the ACC going to a more "conventional" bracket in 2014, the pricing structure and session purchases can - and likely will - change. Just as the change away from pool play may spur fan interest, the possibility of seeing multiple games for one price may also help draw more fans through the turnstiles.

Extras    5

The ACC strives to create a fan-friendly experience at their tournament, and one of the interesting things available to fans at the 2013 version was the opportunity to have your photo taken with the ACC championship trophy. This was a popular attraction for kids, as they got a chance to see the hardware for which their favorite team was competing on the field. Judging by the reaction this received, this should definitely continue in the future.

The ACC Digital Network also set up a booth on the main concourse. This booth allowed fans to relive some of the great moments in ACC sports history via video screens. Fans were also able to sign up to win prize packs and other materials. The ACC is obviously steeped in history, and this is a great way to promote that history while an event is taking place.

There were a number of staff from the host Durham Bulls working the tournament, along with the ACC staff and volunteers. They are all to be commended for their friendly and helpful nature. It would have been easy to understand how they may have been a bit fatigued after a long weekend of baseball, but their smiles were just as bright on the day of the championship as they were when the first pitch was thrown. The people are just as important as the on-field product, and the ACC and host Bulls got it right, in this case.

The Bulls have a kids area down the first base line, and this area saw a lot of action during the ACC tournament. The area is not extravagant - mostly a bounce house - but helps to allow the little ones to burn off some excess energy. This is always a welcome sight to parents.

The ACC also conducted a number of promotions through the tournament, awarding ACC Digital Network prize packs, baseball and football championship tickets and more. These prizes went mostly to kids, which is a nice souvenir for them to take home. The conference also had staff throwing t-shirts into the crowd at various intervals, and free shirts are always a nice prize for fans of all ages.

Final Thoughts

The Atlantic Coast Conference is one of the elite college baseball conferences in the nation, and a trip to their conference tournament plainly demonstrates why this is the case. The product on the field is second-to-none, as are the people who conduct the tournament. No matter where the tournament is held, be it Greensboro, Durham - or possibly even in Charlotte's soon-to-be-finished ballpark - it is absolutely worth the trip to visit the ACC tournament. Every team who participated in the 2013 tournament advanced to the NCAA tournament, with three of those teams receiving national seeds. This much talent in one place certainly justifies the price of admission.

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Local Food & Drink

L'Uva Enoteca  (map it!)

406 Blackwell St

Durham, NC 27701

(919) 688-8181

http://www.luvaenoteca.com

Cuban Revolution Restaurant & Bar  (map it!)

318 Blackwell St

Durham, NC 27701

(919) 687-4300

http://www.thecubanrevolution.com

Mellow Mushroom  (map it!)

410 Blackwell St

Durham, NC 27701

(919) 680-8500

http://www.mellowmushroom.com

Tobacco Road Sports Cafe  (map it!)

280 S Mangum St #100

Durham, NC 27701

(919) 937-9909

http://www.tobaccoroadsportscafe.com

Local Entertainment

American Tobacco Historic District  (map it!)

318 Blackwell St

Durham, NC 27701

(919) 433-1566

http://www.americantobaccohistoricdistrict.com

Durham Performing Arts Center  (map it!)

123 Vivian St

Durham, NC 27701

(919) 688-3722

http://www.dpacnc.com

Lodging

Durham Marriott City Center  (map it!)

201 Foster St

Durham, NC 27701

(919) 768-6000

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/rducv-durham-marriott-at-the-civic-center/

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