Monday, October 27, 2008


As we near this election, I remember one in the early ‘90’s. A Raleigh businessman had bought the Durham Bull’s and announced he was moving them to Raleigh.

Promoters came to my little temporary office over in Brightleaf. At first they told me they were just moving the team out Downtown and out by RTP. RTP is a business park, 4 miles from Downtown Durham and encompassed on three sides by the City of Durham.

But Raleigh residents--for obvious reasons--have cultivated references to the Park as being in “in between” Raleigh and Durham, even referring to the “Raleigh” side of the Park. No harm in that? I guess there is a Durham side of the “State Capitol” too?

These gentlemen unfolded a document and started pointing to the location. “That’s in Raleigh, isn’t it,” I exclaimed. Now remember, I’d only been here a short time then. No, it is by the airport they explained. But the area they pointed to, while near the jointly owned airport, was definitely and more specifically in another city and county.

They had their business reasons for moving the Bulls…despite an NCSU student survey that revealed that out of town residents wouldn’t come to see the Bull’s in another location, these folks were determined a shiny new stadium with lots of parking would be a bigger draw…and besides they would still call the team the Durham Bulls…one big region, right, who cares if the team’s name and its location don’t match. If you buy that just ask NY Giants fans.

I learned later, Raleigh was considering assisting the move out of Durham with its new prepared food tax revenues as a resource.

Without its own prepared food tax to help with funding, Durham’s response was a referendum to build a new stadium over by the Lucky Strike Factory.

The referendum passed in the City but lost narrowly when votes County wide were tallied. All appeared lost but to the rescue came a determined City Council and a threatened law suit if Raleigh tampered with the Bulls.

The result, an outstanding new, retro Durham Bulls Athletic Park which in turn launched redevelopment of that whole district.

But Durham did something else right during that troubled time. It didn’t tear down the old stadium, the Historic Durham Athletic Park, site of the movie Bull Durham.

So different than the new Yankee Stadium which not only succeeds the true Yankee Stadium, but replaces it entirely…Durham saved the DAP. After all, part of the resentment over the attempt to move the Bulls wasn’t just the move to Raleigh but that Durham residents along with the vast majority of all Bulls fans, didn’t want the team to leave the old DAP.

Took us a while but now this spring, the DAP will emerge from a major renovation…and become a training lab for Minor League Baseball as well as the home team for the NCCU Eagles.

Durham was smart. There was no need to throw out the old with the new. And years from now, when the DBAP is also old…people sill will point to the DAP and say, that’s the real Durham Bulls ballpark.

But this isn’t just about nostalgia. Communities that evolve indigenous, almost temporal place based assets are destined to be the survivors as visitor destinations and top places to live while nearly all other settlements will have become clones.

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