The Durham City Council approved a lease agreement Monday, May 6, 2013, that will keep the Durham Bulls in Durham Bulls Athletic Park for at least the next 20 years and create a structure for future upgrades to the stadium.
The motion, approved unanimously 5-0 with two council members absent (Diane Catotti and Howard Clement, III), goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014 and will keep the Bulls at DBAP through the end of 2033. The agreement also includes two separate five-year options to extend the deal past the terms of the lease.
“In passing these measures, it speaks well to us as a city,” said council member Eugene Brown. “We are definitely moving Durham forward as a city once again.”
In connection with the agreement, the City of Durham will pay the Durham Bulls $12 million in deferred money for maintenance and repair projects. Through the life of the lease, the City of Durham is expected to save an estimated $7.4 million.
“This is a relationship that has been built on trust and experience,” said Durham Mayor William “Bill” Bell. “Like all arrangements, you experience good times and bad times. Hopefully there are a lot of good times to come.”
The Bulls’ standing lease agreement with the City of Durham was set to expire in 2015. As part of those terms, the city paid $200,000 annually in operation costs. Those costs will now belong to the Durham Bulls Baseball club with the new agreement.
“I have to give the credit to the city manager (Tom Bonfield) that he wanted to solve some of the problems from the past and get those straightened out and move forward in a positive way,” said Durham Bulls vice president George Habel. “I think it speaks well of the city and where the city wants to be. And it speaks well of the partnership.”
The details of the agreement call for the Durham Bulls to assume all operation costs of the team, including stadium utilities and preventative maintenance costs estimated at $200,000 annually. In exchange, the base rent will be lowered from $150,000 to $125,000. The Bulls will pay the city a 3 percent share of any gross revenues that exceed $10.75 million annually for team-played home games and 1.25 percent for special events.
It is estimated that the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game will bring in over $3 million in spending in Durham, according to Mayor Pro-Tempore Cora Cole-McFadden. Durham finance director David Boyd said that the city “enjoys about $7 million annually” from the Durham Bulls.
The Bulls are currently owned by the parent company of WRAL, Capitol Broadcasting Company.
“It’s an idea makes sense because of American Tobacco. Our taking responsibility of the ballpark wouldn’t have made sense a decade ago,” Habel said. “Now, we’ve got significant real estate interests, pretty much created a district, and it just makes sense that we can take this on and relieve the city of the burden, financially and operationally.”
The City of Durham will be issued bonds to cover the $12 million in deferred maintenance costs to be paid back with lease agreement revenues as well as General Fund monies. The annual cost on the bonds is estimated to be $970,000 annually.
Items on the list to be upgraded and maintained at DBAP include, among other things, field lighting, seating, interior walls, paint, turf and drainage.
DBAP broke ground in 1993 and opened officially in 1995. It has undergone four sets of renovations and expansion in that time. It currently seats 10,000 fans at capacity.
Thanks to WRAL.com’s Aaron Schoonmaker for this capcom story & to Nathan Clendenin for this capcom photo.