Ballpark Review: Durham Bulls Athletic Park

Sixty Feet, Six Inches Correspondent ISeptember 24, 2009

When most people think the Durham Bulls, they think of the movie Bull Durham and a very famous sign.

In July I was fortunate enough to take in two games at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Let's just say while I had some high hopes for this stadium, some design flaws hindered my visit.

Stadium Design: Overall flow of the stadium, architecture and unique parts of the stadium.

Let's put DBAP in context. The stadium was built in by Populous in the midst of the modern-retro movement in stadium design. In almost every stadium I've set foot in that has been designed by Populous I have been happy with the overall flow of the stadium. This stadium is a testament to ideas that seemed awesome on paper, but really didn't work out too well in execution.

That's not to say this is the worst stadium ever designed, but there are some flaws which did hamper my experience. First off, the concourses are too small. I got to experience this stadium at about 2/3 capacity and at less than half capacity, in both occurrences it seemed that if there was any line it took up over half the concourse and severely limited movement. It should also be added that these lines snaked and were not just straight back, which hopefully will allow the reader to understand just how narrow these concourses are.

Concourse size is always a big deal to me because it really affects the flow of the stadium and ease of moving around.

Another feature of the stadium that created a maneuverability issue was the single staircase that led to the outfield. In order to get to outfield seats, one has to climb a staircase to get there. This wouldn't be a major issue except for the fact that with the lines taking up most of the concourse and the width of the stairs, there is significant congestion with any crowd.

Once you get to the outfield, a person will get to look at the lovely "Blue Monster" in left field. Sadly, that's all you'll get to do as you cannot go witness the view because it's a fenced-in picnic area. It's a negative, but not one that makes me look down on the stadium for. Rather, just something I would have enjoyed.

Finally, the entrance seems a bit problematic. Once you enter (which I believe is the only gate for non-STH), the patron must decide between one of two escalators to actually get up to the concourse. When I went, this was hellish for both entry and exit. Too many people, not enough room.

Despite its flaws, it is a nicely constructed and one must understand this ballpark is basically packed inside of a city block. I shall bestow on this park's design a 2 out of 5 Yeahhhhh Boyeeees.

Game Experience: The experience of enjoying a game at the stadium.

Overall I would describe the game experience at The DBAP as average. Not really much to say here. Although I must add the excitement that comes from watching the Bull's eyes glow with smoke coming out of its nose and the tail moving up and down after a Bulls' home run or win makes up for a lack of stirring events during the game.

The "Hit Bull, Win Steak" sign alone pulls this up to a 4.

Concessions: Overall pricing and convenience of ballpark concessions.

The pricing at this park was insane. I was paying more here that I did at some of the MLB parks I've been to. This is understandable though, the surrounding Triangle Area is a rather high income region of the County, and the prices are gauged toward their spending dollars. Sadly, for a person not from this area like myself I'm stuck paying the high prices.

Another problem I had was how long it seemed to take all of the concession stands. I don't expect breakneck speed, but I was confused as to why it took me almost an inning and a half to get through a 5 person line. I thought this may have been a one time thing, but the next night I decided to try the concessions again and the result was almost exactly the same.

Finally, a major problem I experienced was in the outfield. There is only one full concession stand in the outfield section of the ballpark and it's a Chick-fil-a stand. For those unfamiliar with the business practices of this company, they are closed on Sundays with no exceptions. Unfortunately for me I had the misfortune of sitting in direct sunlight, in the outfield, on a Sunday, in July. This combination was horrible as the only option one has is to go back down the stairs into the main concourse and stand in line. Chick-fil-a is a great option in a stadium, just not a good idea to occupy the ONLY stand for a large portion of the ballpark.

One positive was the team store at the entrance to the park. It had a fantastic selection complete with the greatest souvenir anyone would ever get.

High prices and bad stand placement detract from the score. 2 Yeahhhh Boyeees.

View: View of game play from the seats, along with scenery surrounding the stadium.

I've been going to baseball stadiums my entire life, from Single A to MLB ballparks. I have never seen dead grass on a field...ever. The grass was riddled with dead patches and divots. This honestly was the worst field I've ever seen in a professional baseball stadium.

As for the view from the seats, there doesn't seem to be a bad place to sit in the entire stadium. Every seat has a nice vantage point. Even the standing room above the outfield seats provides a nice view of the field.

The DBAP is built in the middle of the Tobacco District in downtown Durham. It's surrounded by buildings and there's a nice view of the city from the stands down the lines.

The field is the only problem I had with what is otherwise a stadium that is very pleasing on the eyes. 3 Yeahhh Boyees.

Personality: Does the stadium have it's own unique personality and does it capture the personality of the city/team it represents.

Durham Bulls Athletic Park definitely has its own personality. When I think of Durham, I think of tobacco. It's fitting that the stadium is built in the historic Tobacco District, complete with a view of the Lucky Strike Cigarettes water tower from the field.

The concourses are decorated with signs and banners proclaiming the proud heritage of baseball in the Triangle. The scoreboard in Right is hand operated. Downtown Durham is in full view from the park and nothing says minor league personality like this.

For a stadium brimming with personality I must award it a 5.

The Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a great place to see a game, the problem is just getting to your seat, especially if you decide you want something to eat/drink. Final score: 16 out of 25.

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