DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — For the first time in 607 days, fans returned to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Tuesday night for the long-awaited home opening game.
The Durham Bulls season was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, and this year people in Durham couldn’t wait to make it back to the ballpark.
For businesses in the downtown area, they are hoping this will mean a boost in sales this summer.
“Today is a huge day, we’ve been waiting for this for over 600 days for baseball to be back in Durham,” said Tami Jeffreys, manager at Tobacco Road Sports Cafe, which is located behind the ballpark.
Jeffreys said the last year was hard for her restaurant due to the pandemic, and they had to lay off some staff.
But she said the return of baseball will have a huge impact on the restaurant.
“Baseball would add between 50 – 70 percent of sales every night that they are in town,” Jeffreys said.
Some businesses are starting to open near the ballpark.
Press Coffee+Crepes will be opening in the next few weeks right next to the ballpark and they have a sign in their window that says they are hiring.
Other restaurants, like Pie Pushers on Main Street, have a food stand inside the ballpark.
Pie Pushers co-owner Becky Hacker said they are excited to sell their food there for the first time in more than 600 days.
“We had a day or two of cleaning and making sure everything still works,” Hacker said.
Hacker said she is hoping that they will get some good business at the Bulls games, but since it is still limited seating at the ballpark right now, she isn’t sure what to expect.
“Will they really sell all the tickets they have the space for, will people come hungry still? We’re excited to see what it actually does for all the vendors and the guests,” Hacker said. “It’s like baby steps towards what it used to be again.”
The Durham Bulls sold out of tickets for the home opener on Tuesday.