Published: Jul 08, 2009 02:00 AM
Modified: Jul 08, 2009 03:16 PM
No one's committing to a grand opening date, but the venerable Durham Athletic Park's overhaul is just a few touches and inspections from finished.
"Construction is complete," said City of Durham spokeswoman Beverly B. Thompson.
"We're moving according to schedule," said Jill Rosenko, Durham manager for Minor League Baseball.
MiLB, umbrella organization for 18 leagues and about 150 minor-league teams, is set to take over as the DAP's operator once city inspectors issue a certificate of occupancy.
That should happen "really soon," Thompson said.
Originally, the $5 million renovation was due for completion last winter, in time for N.C. Central University to make it home field for the 2009 college season. By December, though, construction delays had pushed opening expectations into spring. By spring, they were on to summer.
In late June, a DAP advisory committee discussed setting Aug. 14-15 for opening ceremonies, but put off a decision.
"It's not firmed up yet," Thompson said Friday, but, "everything will be ready for the first event."
Aside from any job-done festivity, the first event will be the Bull Durham Blues Festival's second day, Sept. 12.
Cleaning up the job site, new netting behind home plate, railings and benches in the dugouts are some of the last touches left to do, as well as checks for compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act, Thompson said.
The advisory committee, at its June 25 meeting, decided it is "very important" to have a scoreboard and awnings installed by opening, and to get fresh paint on the rear of buildings visible beyond the outfield.
The DAP was built as home for the Durham Bulls in 1939 after the 1926 El Toro Park, at the same site, burned. Banker John Sprunt Hill had donated the property to the city. Some scenes for the 1988 Kevin Costner movie "Bull Durham" were filmed there.
After the Bulls moved to the new Durham Bulls Athletic Park in 1995, various baseball and softball teams and several festivals continued to use the park. But the condition of the field and stadium steadily deteriorated.
A bond issue in 2005 provided renovation money, and in 2007 the city contracted to have Minor League Baseball manage the park and use it for training umpires, groundskeepers and other baseball personnel.