DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Major League Baseball has required the City of Durham to make $10 million worth of upgrades to Durham Bulls Athletic Park or risk losing the team.
MLB gave the city a deadline of April 2025 to make the upgrades. The Durham Bulls are contributing $1 million in renovation costs but it’s up to the city to cover the other $9 million. In response, city leaders asked stay to study how much economic impact the team has on the city.
A city report shows the team brought in a total of $48.5 million worth of economic impact during its 2019 season. The team generated $1.4 million from local taxes. The same report found the team supported more than 25,000 jobs either directly or indirectly related to the team.
The report also found, the team’s fanbase stretches beyond Durham. While 39 percent of the fan base was from Durham County, 45 percent were from Wake County.
Investment worth the cost?
Will this be enough for the city to decide a $10 million investment in upgrades is worth the cost? That will be for city council to decide at their Monday night meeting.
MLB has required some of the park renovations to include the addition of a new batting tunnel, front office and player locker room reconfigurations and upgrades, training room upgrades and any associated HVAC, plumbing, electrical and architectural finishes.
If Durham gives the greenlight for upgrades, construction would be on a tight deadline. Renovation of the office area would likely start in August and end in January 2023. From September through March 2023, crews would work on player development areas. Addition of the batting tunnels would last from October through mid-April.
Offices and player development areas need to be complete by the 2023 baseball season. The city reported delayed construction could result in canceled games costing $300,000 in revenue per cancelled game for the Bulls.
Rising investment costs
The biggest challenge facing the city with this potential renovation are the rising cost of materials.
As CBS 17 reported last month, the upgrades were initially estimated to cost the city $5 million. Rising construction costs in the midst of COVID-19 and the crisis in Ukraine, pushed that up to $10.2 million.
Skanska, the construction company working with the city, reported that material costs alone went up an average of 45 percent since March 2021. The expected costs to rise even further by the time the project goes out to bid.
Durham City Council will consider all these factors and discuss how to proceed during their Monday night meeting. It is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.