Durham Bulls Athletic Park – Durham Bulls
Photos by James Hilchen and Kaytlyn Drummond, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.57
Durham Bulls Athletic Park 409 Blackwell St Durham, NC 27701
Year Opened: 1995
The Bull City
Opened on April 6, 1995, Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP) is home to the Durham Bulls of the Triple-A East – Southeast Division. The current ballpark replaced the iconic Durham Athletic Park, which was the primary setting for the movie “Bull Durham.” The designers of the stadium also designed Camden Yards in Baltimore, Jacobs Field in Cleveland, and Coors Field in Denver.
The Bulls moved from Single-A to Triple-A in 1998, which made it necessary for the ballpark to add more seating. This seat expansion set the current capacity, which is 10,000. Numerous other renovations have occurred since the opening. For fans, the most important change was the addition of concession stands to the upper-level concourse, which helped alleviate long lines for food/drink. Additionally, the ballpark became a 360-degree ballpark, allowing fans the ability to walk all the way around the field.
DBAP has hosted the 2012 Triple-A Championship, the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game, multiple ACC tournaments, and some Duke Blue Devils baseball games.
Food & Beverage 5
In 2021 the ballpark went cashless, so be sure and bring a card to pay.
Among the areas that DBAP stands out, this is one of them. No matter what your taste, you can find something you will like to eat here. Whether you are gluten free, vegan, or allergic to tree nuts, there are still numerous offerings available. A bit unique to minor league concessions, Bull City Hospitality, a local company affiliated with the team, is the food and beverage provider at DBAP.
All the typical ballpark fare is covered and the list is too numerous to mention, but you have your options of numerous types of burgers (including veggie and a gluten-free bun), hot dogs, pizza, wings, and much more. I had my first BBQ Carolina Que Dog and it wont be my last. It’s a footlong hot dog topped with pulled pork, slaw, and vinegar-based sauce. Folks with dietary restriction concerns will have to go to certain food stands, but the guest services booth was very helpful.
Pepsi products are the soda of choice at DBAP and water, Gatorade, etc are also available. Additionally, there are plenty of craft beers (along with domestic) to be had. A neat feature of the ballpark is that it has its own brewery. Bull Durham Beer is brewed on the property and is highly recommended.
If I could go higher than 5 stars here, I would. DBAP is an absolutely fantastic spot to take in a ballgame and very aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
There is a two-level seating area. All seats are extra-wide with more leg room than your typical stadium, which is great for fans that need the extra space. The ability to walk around the entire field is an opportunity well worth taking and it is apparent that there are no bad views in this ballpark.
A roof covers about a quarter of the seats. On the day I attended, it was hot and humid. The roof has industrial sized ceiling fans attached to the bottom and it makes a world of difference. Even with the weather, there was a constant breeze in the seating bowl which made it so much more comfortable.
Much like the iconic Green Monster and Fenway Park in Boston, DBAP has its own Blue Monster. The ballpark’s left field wall measures 32-feet high. It has both a manual scoreboard as well as the main video board for the stadium embedded in it. There is seating above the blue monster and many people take advantage of the opportunity of the unique view.
Above the blue monster is the iconic snorting bull from “Bull Durham.” This is a copy as the original one was damaged, but you wouldn’t know it by just looking at it. Beyond the center field wall is homerun hill. This is a grass berm area where you can watch the ballgame while relaxing on the grass or blanket.
On particularly hot/sunny days or if rain is expected, your best bet is to sit in sections 200-208, as those are covered from the elements, but there isn’t a bad seat in the house wherever you choose to sit.
The ballpark is part of the American Tobacco Campus and is located in the middle of downtown Durham. This area has been part of a renovation effort and, as such, is home to many restaurants and bars within walking distance.
One spot definitely worth checking out is the Tobacco Road Sports Café. The café overlooks DPAB and serves up plenty of different food options for every taste. From the country frizzled & drizzled chicken (chicken breasts w/ drizzled honey and country gravy along with red potatoes and roasted veggies), or the bison burger to the specialty southern sides of fried green tomatoes or collard greens, you cant go wrong here. Another option that was recommended was Pizzeria Toro if you are a fan of wood-fired pizza. Head a few blocks up to Main St and you will find a litany of restaurants and bard to choose from.
If you want to stay in the area, there is a SpringHill Suites right across the Durham Freeway. There are some other hotels on Main St. You can also stay a bit farther away for a little less money on I-85 where there is a slew of options.
The Durham Performing Arts Center is near the main parking garage, so if you are in the area for a game, check out the schedule here as you may be able to catch a performance in addition to a game.
Obviously, the Bulls are one of the most famous minor league teams because of the movie. Attendance was down a bit in 2021 (and this isn’t specific just to Durham), but that can be attributed to the fact that not everyone is ready to be back in crowded stadiums with Covid still being a factor.
The Bulls have quite a local following as well. Far more fans here seemed invested in the game, rather than being there for a social event. The reaction after a home-team home run is especially fun to see. The fans all look towards the bull sign to see the eyes light up and smoke come out of its nose.
The ballpark is located just off Durham Freeway and is very easy to get to. Public transportation is a good option if you don’t want to deal with some of the traffic congestion that comes with any ballpark. There are numerous parking decks around the stadium, some of which are used for businesses, so it can be somewhat confusing to know where to park. The good news is there are plenty of parking attendants that are around, and they are happy to point you in the right direction.
The main gate sits at the corner of Blackwell Street and Jackie Robinson Drive. This can also get a bit congested on game days with big crowds but the traffic into the ballpark seems to flow pretty well and the waits are minimal.
Once inside, the concourses generally flow well and there are plenty of restrooms and concessions areas. DBAP has a clear bag only policy, so plan accordingly.
Return on Investment 5
For the experience you get at DBAP, they could charge more for tickets and it would still be worth the cost. Parking is $7 in a parking deck, and you can even find some free parking if you are willing to walk a little bit. Game tickets generally run about $10-$16, depending on where you want to sit. Concession costs are very typical to what you would pay in other minor league ballparks, so all things considered, you will get a tremendous return on your investment.
Again, if I could go higher than 5 here, I would.
I’ll start with a point for the ceiling fans underneath the roof. I can’t stress enough how much difference this makes, and I’ve never seen it in any other stadium.
Another point goes to the snorting bull. Seeing it in person is a great experience.
Add a point for The Blue Monster, which is another unique feature of this great ballpark.
The fourth point is added for the team’s connection to the movie, Bull Durham. There are plenty of reminders of the movie around DBAP, but it isn’t overstated either, which makes it nice.
A final point goes to the Bulls Team Store. They have a lot of great items, some of them very unique.
The Bulls have a long and storied history in North Carolina. As someone who has seen my share of minor league ballparks over the years, Durham Bulls Athletic Park just might be my favorite. Great scenery, food for every taste, and fun reminders of an iconic movie makes this a ballpark that should be on every baseball fan’s bucket list.