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Baseball Landmark Could Help Bring Development to Bull City

Minor League Baseball wants to turn the Durham Athletic Park into a national training facility, which could be a catalyst for other development in the area.

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DURHAM, N.C. — Even with its fading colors and peeling paint, the Durham Athletic Park is still a symbol of Americana.

"The DAP, to me and a lot of folks, is what minor league baseball was in its heyday," said Bill Miller, one of the original groundskeepers when the ballpark was the Durham Bulls' home more than 10 years ago.

Now, the facility, which graced the big screen in the 1988 Kevin Costner film "Bull Durham," is poised to become home base for a national training facility that could help spur economic development in and around the ballpark.

"I think there's going to be a lot of private investment unleashed with what we're doing," said Alan DeLisle, Durham's economic development director.

DeLisle said the city has worked out a deal with Minor League Baseball to make the DAP its national training facility for umpires, groundskeepers and baseball broadcasters for 160 teams.

Don Etheridge, a representative for Minor League Baseball, said the organization would also bring championship and all-star games to the Bull City.

Local baseball teams, such as North Carolina Central University's, would also play on the field.

If the City Council approves the proposal, there would then be discussion about adding a baseball museum that, Etheridge said, could bring an estimated 200,000 people to Durham each year.

Improving the facility would cost an estimated $5 million – $1 million more than a 2005 bond designated for repairs. Work would include improving the grandstand, buying new turf, installiing new bathrooms and other upgrades.

Renovation could start as early as October and be complete by July 2008.

Under an agreement with the city, Durham would pay $35,000 a year to Minor League Baseball, which would pay for operational expenses, to manage the park. Durham would get 30 percent of any profits.

The City Council will vote on the measure at a meeting on Aug. 20.



Julia Lewis, Reporter
Pete James, Photographer
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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