Built in 1995, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park was part of the first wave of the minor league building boom. Following the template established by the 1992 opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the “DBAP” is a steel and brick construct – a “new” ballpark with the retro feel of the ballparks of the past.
Less than a mile from Durham Athletic Park, film site for the classic “Bull Durham” film and the prior home of the Bulls, the DBAP has been the centerpiece of a downtown revitalization. Shops, restaurants and office and residential buildings have all sprung up around the ballpark, where previously it was primarily the burned out shell of the historic American Tobacco District.
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My experience with food at the ballpark is a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side, there's a nice beer selection, with lots of local micro-brews and regional specialties. The funnel cake is fresh and crispy, not greasy, and the pretzels are fresh and hand twisted.. not a microwaved SuperPretzel.
On the down side, a couple of their specialty dogs are unimpressive. The New York dog has sauerkraut and what I assume is a pickled red onion relish. The onions are sort of slimy, and unlike anything I've ever had on a New York street corner.
The Bull City Dog is advertised as a hot dog wrapped in bacon, and this is then encased in pretzel dough filled with cheese. The pretzel dough is a big disappointment, as it is under-cooked and has the texture of Pillsbury dough. The dog itself is also half the size of the New York dog and winds up shriveled and overcooked inside the dough. The overall package is disappointing and needs to be reworked.
One last sad note. At the DAP, and at the DBAP when it opened, the Bulls used to offer two local burritos - some of the first burritos I've ever come across at a ballpark. I was particularly fond of the Flying Burrito. These have been replaced with a Moe's Southwest Grill franchise stand. (Note: It looks like the original Flying Burrito restaurant may have closed in 2012, but I still hate to see local replaced with chain restaurants at the ballpark.)
Being that this was a July 5th, 2013 visit, the park had a full house. That said, the atmosphere was bustling, but didn't feel excessively crowded. The standing room only crowd in front of the office buildings and above the Blue Monster in left field give the park an "in-town" feel, as well. The crowd is typical of a small Southern city, in that this is a family event, and fireworks are a big part of the festivities on a July 4th weekend.
There's a definite excitement and sense of energy throughout the park, but they do a nice job of keeping the focus on the field. Vantage points abound from the open concourse, and the seats down the left field line extend below the level of the bullpen mound, which is a pretty unique angle. There are numerous group events and party decks being utilized, and the park is immaculately clean.
The neighborhood has certainly grown up around this park. My last visit was in the first few years after it opened, and to be honest, it almost didn't feel safe. Now, the whole neighborhood is bustling and well-lit. There are restaurants and shops built into the former American Tobacco warehouses, as well as historical markers around a green area for gathering before a game.
The neighborhood is enclosed by Durham Freeway to the south, and US Highway 15 and some train tracks to the north, so the neighborhood is sort of a pocket neighborhood, and the geography limits the extent to which economic impact can be felt without a difficult crossing for pedestrians.
People in Durham love the Bulls, and the Research Triangle area has a rich baseball tradition. From the movie, to the UNC Tarheels being a regular contender for the College World Series, to the USA Baseball facilities being housed in nearby Apex, NC, there's a lot here for the baseball fan Still, this is more of an evening out with the kids than it is a home for die-hard purists. The cheers for the mascot Wool E. Bull remind you who their target is, and they hit that well. There's plenty here, though, regardless of your level of baseball acumen.
Even on a full night, the two highways make it easy to get close to the park, and parking is readily available and inexpensive. I parked within a half-mile of the entrance in a secure lot for $5, just north of the green space that borders the ballpark and the American Tobacco Buildings.
Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a great place to see a ballgame, and you can have the experience you want for a reasonable price. Field boxes can still be had for $10, which is a relative bargain. If you're planning a trip to the souvenir stand or concessions, you may also want to pre-purchase some credit with your tickets, and you'll get an even better deal.
People who love the film always want to take home a piece of the movie magic, and the team store was hopping after the game I attended. The Bulls have one of the most extensive collections of team gear and movie replicas I've ever come across, and it is very easy to spend more in the store than you do at the game for a family of four.
It's hard to believe I've come this far in a review without mentioning the Bull Sign. It's very comforting to see that the bull has a place in this park, albeit on top of the Blue Monster. Originally, the bull was moved from foul territory in the old park to fair territory in right field for the movie. The idea of "Hit Bull, Win Steak" really resonated and has become a signature icon of the ballpark.
The current bull is not the one from the movie (which I'm told is in storage, and occasionally comes out on the concourse for special occasions. The new version looks great, and adds a "Hit Grass, Win Salad" moniker to the original refrain, and thankfully remains corporate logo-free.
One last bonus: Arriving at the ballpark, I wanted to find the commemorative brick I had bought 18 years ago, but I had no idea where to find it in the walkway leading to the entrance. An employee noticed me reading the bricks in a few different sections, and asked me what I was looking for. He then ducked inside and looked it up on a master list, and pointed me to the right spot in the "Crash Davis" section. This was a great point of proactivity and hospitality.
In the heart of basketball country, where legendary names like Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski are commonplace, stands a minor league baseball gem. The Bulls have been a staple in Durham since 1913 and have been rather infamous ever since the release of the 1988 feature film Bull Durham. Although you won't find Crash Davis and Nuke Laloosh here, you will find a baseball experience that will rival any other in Triple A Baseball.
In 1998 the Durham Bulls made the jump from the Single A Carolina League to the Triple A International League. Named after current Bulls owner and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting, Jim Goodmon, Goodmon Field is always referred to as Durham Bulls Athletic Park or D-BAP. As the Triple A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Bulls have flourished boasting solid attendance and on-field success.
To me, this is one of the premiere minor league parks out there. Plenty of food options (inside and outside of the stadium), the seating is major league quality, and it's easy to get to. The lower level seats are just $10, a great deal. I also love the view from the monster out in left. This is a must-see park.
It's a great setting for a ballpark, with downtown buildings surrounding the ballpark on 3 sides. There are numerous areas to watch the game, and each separate area brings unique characteristics into focus. Watching the game from atop the left field wall was particularly nice. Minus points for not having ice cream helmets (and no ice cream, for that matter), and a lack of Bull Durham movie memorabilia on hand. Lots of choices in the area for dining before and after the game.
280 S Mangum St
Durham, NC 27701
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