The ACC Is Bullish on Durham

Baseball Championship Opens Four-Year Run at DBAP

The Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Championship will call Durham Bulls Athletic Park home for the next four years.

Score it a huge win for an event that consistently showcases teams ranked among the nation’s elite, but did so in six different venues over the previous 15 years.

“Our schools were unanimous in their desire to come to Durham and come on a four-year basis,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “One thing we really wanted to do was to put the baseball championship in one place, leave it for a four-year period and give it time to really grow in that particular community. Durham and this great facility is where the schools chose to do that.” 

When teams take the field this week for the 2015 ACC Championship, they will do so in a stadium that completed a $20 million transformation during the offseason that has wowed both players and fans. Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP) boasts a new playing surface, improved field lights, new seats, additional group picnic areas, and upgraded video displays and sound system.

Durham has hosted the ACC Baseball Championship on eight previous occasions, including six at DBAP. Those were all first-class events; now look for the best to get even better.

“I would like to think that this is just the beginning, that Durham and the Triangle will prove over the next four years that our community can be the permanent home of the ACC Baseball Championship," said Jim Goodmon, President and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Company, which has owned the Durham Bulls minor league team since 1990.

Set to host through at least 2018, DBAP will become the first stadium to welcome four straight ACC Baseball Championships since the Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville, Florida did so from 2005 through 2008.

“It's one of the best facilities we can possibly play in,” Swofford said. “And Durham is a fantastic city from an ACC standpoint – very, very supportive.”

That was evident during the 2013 ACC Championship at DBAP, when the crowd of 11,329 for the Saturday night game between North Carolina and NC State set a single-game attendance mark not only for the tournament, but for any college baseball game played in the state of North Carolina. The Sunday afternoon crowd of 8,697 for UNC-Virginia Tech set an ACC Championship title game record.

Those games would have been memorable had they been played anywhere, but DBAP and its surroundings made them all the more special.

“It’s Wrigley Field for minor league baseball,” NC State coach Elliott Avent said. “Players want that atmosphere. When you come here you see that bull (in left field), you see that blue monster … you think the Bulls, you think Fenway Park.”

Despite its location within a half-hour drive of three ACC schools, Durham has provided a level playing field for league teams. Prior to UNC’s win in 2013, teams from outside the state of North Carolina had captured four of the previous seven ACC Championships played in the Bull City. Virginia’s last three ACC titles came at DBAP, including those by the College World Series teams of 2009 and 2011.

“I think Durham is the logical place for this tournament,” said Duke coach Chris Pollard, whose team played nine regular-season games at DBAP. “It is a central location geographically, and we have great fan bases here in this area that is going to sustain this tournament year after year.”

And it doesn’t hurt that the ACC Baseball Championship is consistently loaded with national contenders. The 14 current ACC programs have made 88 College World Series appearances, and 18 ACC teams have reached Omaha since 2006.

“Before joining the conference, we had an extremely high level of respect for the baseball history and talent in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and that has only increased during our first season in the league,” said Louisville coach Dan McDonnell, whose team captured the Atlantic Division title and enters this year’s ACC Championship as the No. 1 seed.

Casey Steinbacher, President and CEO of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, sees the upcoming four years as “an incredible opportunity for both the ACC and the Durham community to shine.”

“Baseball has been a key ingredient to the rebirth of Durham, and we believe it is also strategically positioned to be a key ingredient to the future success of Durham,” she said. “It is a match made in heaven by the baseball gods, and we are excited to take full advantage of it."