Durham renews Bulls' ballpark agreement, saving city millions of dollars

From staff reportsMay 7, 2013 

— The Durham City Council renewed its operating agreement Monday night for the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, also known as the DBAP.

The agreement with the Durham Bulls, good until 2033, with two additional five-year options for renewal, is projected to save the city about $7.4 million over the life of the lease.

It also restructures each party’s financial obligations, making operating costs and expenses the responsibility of the Durham Bulls. Additionally, the Bulls will be responsible for maintenance and repair costs up to $200,000 as well as all utility costs.

About $6 million worth of deferred maintenance remains to be done by the city, in addition to nearly $8 million worth of improvements requested by the Bulls. The Durham Bulls will contribute $2 million to the improvements and will be responsible for any cost overruns.

“This new financial model will help pay for debt service and other capital improvements, eliminate the need to use general funds to support the ballpark’s day-to-day operations, and reduce the city’s obligation for future capital repairs and upgrades,” City Manager Tom Bonfield said.

From a fan’s point of view, the most significant upfits will be better lighting and seating, an expanded right-field picnic area and a new food court that you can get to without losing sight of the game.

The new concessions will go above the right-field seats, extending from the existing canopy to the end of the grandstand. Currently, all concessions are on a concourse behind the stands with no view of the field.

Other improvements include a terrace-seating area behind center field, low-water toilets, an improved sound system, LED video signs and a banquet area big enough for several hundred people.

The Bulls’ current lease runs out in 2015, and according to city Finance Director David Boyd the DBAP’s operating costs have been overrunning the city’s revenue by about $200,000 a year.

“After 18 seasons, we love hearing our fans still refer to the DBAP as ‘the new ballpark,’” George Habel, Durham Bulls’ vice president, said in a news release.

“The City of Durham has made a significant commitment to maintain that caliber of experience for our patrons and players,” he continued. “The Bulls pledge to be a responsible steward of this public investment as we assume operational responsibility for the ballpark. It’s gratifying to know that the DBAP is the home of Bulls baseball for decades to come!”

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