After rotating the last six years between Greensboro, NC and Durham, NC, the ACC accounced on Thursday that the next four baseball tournaments will be held exclusively in the latter. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home of the AAA-level Durham Bulls and the Duke Blue Devils, will serve as host for the championship tournaments for four years, beginning with next year's 2015 tournament.
Durham hosted the ACC Baseball Championship eight previous times, three as part of the current rotation. In 2013, over 58,000 people watched the four-day process to crown a league champion, including a sell-out crowd of over 11,000 that watched North Carolina defeat NC State in 18-innings. The six-hour plus affair helped the Tar Heels into the Championship Final, which they won, 6-1, over Virginia Tech.
"Our membership had a desire for the championship to find a home, and through its bid, Durham displayed its abilities to be that home," said commissioner John Swofford in a statement from the ACC. "They showed a commitment to enhancing the event with their facility upgrades and their extensive promotional campaign with the Triangle Sports Commission and Capitol Broadcasting."
At the end of the 2013 season, the Durham Bulls resigned with the city for a 20-year lease, ensuring their viability as the top minor league club for the Tampa Bay Rays. Renovations also began to the tune of $9 million, of which two-thirds were covered by the city. It included added concessions on the upper concourse level and a new club for executive purposes. Additional "picnic areas" were added down the third-base line and into the outfield, and a new concession area down the ifrst base line included a 10,000 square foot social space called "Jackie's Landing" to allow unimpeded views of the field.
The field itself was given a new plumbing system and new sod for the first time in 18 years, updating the grass to provide a more major league feel. DBAP also received new HD video boards and an additional ticket booth as part of the renovations.
The "hit the bull, win a steak" bull was thankfully not touched.
The bid by Durham beat out Greensboro and a late Charlotte submission for the rights to the ACC Championship. Charlotte looked like a late competitor with its new stadium for the Charlotte Knights after falling out of favor with the NCAA over its previous location. The Knights' previous home was actually across the border in South Carolina, a state banned from hosting NCAA-sanctioned championships because of the state's sponsorship of a Confederate battle flag on State Capitol grounds.
The ACC last hosted a championship outside of North Carolina in 2008 when it wrapped up four years in Jacksonville, Florida. Since 2000, the tournament's been held at Knights Stadium in Ft. Hood, SC (the aforementioned previous home of the Charlotte Knights and prior to the NCAA ruling on South Carolina) and Florida Power Park in St. Petersburgh, FL in addition to Jacksonville.
The 2009 ACC Championship was supposed to have been held at Fenway Park, but "scheduling errors" led to the ACC replacing it with Durham at the start of the current rotation. The championship tournament hasn't sniffed north of the Mason-Dixon Line since.