Upgraded Bulls park a hit with fans

Apr. 03, 2014 @ 10:20 PM

Like a polished diamond, the upgraded Durham Bulls Athletic Park sparkled for thousands of fans during opening day Thursday.

The $20 million in improvements puts the park in a league with the best, according to Cary resident Rob Garrett.

“The ballpark has always been a beautiful place, but it’s special this year,” Garrett said. “This has got to be one of the crown jewels of minor-league baseball.”

Renovations include a bigger video board and sound system, more concessions and better playing surface, lighting and seating.

“I love it!” said 68-year-old Baldwin Gammage. “The place is beautiful! It’s always been a very nice stadium, but this adds icing to the cake.”

Gammage said he likes being able to keep up with the game on a monitor while ordering food at the concession stands.

The field’s high quality also made the cut.

“This is pro-style grass that we’re looking at now,” he said. “I don’t see any black spots like we saw last year. It’s a beautiful field.”

Gammage said he attends Bulls game about four times a month, and never misses the season opener. “On opening day, everyone is in first place,” he said.

Lauren Carr, who bought a season ticket, was eager to patronize the margarita hut set to open later in the season. “That’s an improvement,” she said with a laugh. “We’ll sample all the concessions, I’m sure.”

Fourteen-year-old Mitchell Leblanc of Durham said he loves baseball, but food is where his heart is.

“I think the park looks amazing,” he said while eating Italian ice topped with custard. “I really like the picnic chairs behind the outfield. It creates a more fun atmosphere when you’re sitting out there.”

Mitchell said he’s attended at least 15 games each season since he was seven. He always roots for the Bulls, but even when they lose, he said, the food is always a winner.

Michael Rutherford of Raleigh was enjoying three fat hot dogs with mustard and a bag of peanuts just before the game began.

“The park looks wonderful,” he said. “I’ve been coming to opening day since 1990 when the Bulls played in the old park. Opening day is like the beginning of summer, the start of nice weather.”

Durham resident Larry Shriner came to the game with a real dog – his 6-year-old golden retriever service canine, Buster, who appeared lost in a field of dreams.

“I love the improvements,” Shriner said. “Last year the stadium was wonderful, and now they’ve made it even better than wonderful. The field looks great, the outfield fence looks really good, and we’ve got good seating. I couldn’t be happier.”