Durham Athletic Park, affectionately known as "The DAP" (pronounced like "cap"), is a former minor league baseball stadium in Durham, North Carolina. The stadium was home to the Durham Bulls from 1926 through 1994. As of 2010, the DAP still stands north of the downtown area of Durham, on the block bounded by Washington, Corporation, Foster and Geer Streets.
Durham Athletic Park became one of the most famous minor league ballparks in history, thanks to the 1988 film Bull Durham, featuring the Bulls, Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Most of the filming was done at the DAP, following the end of the Carolina League season of 1987. The film's wide acclaim helped fuel the burgeoning public interest in minor league ball in general. In the case of both the city and the film, this explosion of popularity caused the DAP to become a victim of its own success; despite expansion with temporary bleachers, it was just too small to handle the increase in crowd size and the Bulls’ Triple-A ambitions.
The Bulls moved to their new home Durham Bulls Athletic Park (also known as the "DBAP") in downtown Durham, the before the 1995 season. Durham Bulls Athletic Park was built with a capacity to Carolina League standards, but the land that the DBAP was built on had more room in case if the ballpark needs to be expanded for Triple-A baseball. Triple-A baseball did came to Durham in 1998 and the Bulls moved up from High-A to Triple-A, with the DBAP then expanded to Triple-A standards.
The Depression and disaster
The Bulls sat out the 1934 and 1935 seasons, owing to the Great Depression. For 1936, Cincinnati Reds moved their affiliation (Piedmont League squad) from the Wilmington Pirates to Durham, re-activating the Durham Bulls franchise. On the evening of June 17, 1939, the wooden Durham Athletic Park was destroyed by a fire that followed a 7-3 win over the Portsmouth Cubs, causing more than $100,000 in damage and nearly killing groundskeeper Walter Williams, who was asleep under the grandstand when the blaze began, shortly after midnight.
The current stadium
Less than two weeks after the disastrous fire that completely destroyed the stadium, a new concrete and steel grandstand, seating 1,000 spectators, opened on July 2, 1939, in time for the Bulls to face the Charlotte Hornets, as a result, 1939 is the year from which the current DAP is normally dated.
During the off-season of 1939–1940 the stadium was rebuilt on-site, with 2,000 grandstand seats and portable bleachers along the 1st and 3rd base lines. Funding for the completely new stadium was provided by John Sprunt Hill and the design was penned by Durham architect George Watts Carr, who added the park's distinctive conical ticket tower. The new DAP reopened April 7, 1940 for an exhibition game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox, with the Bulls, now part of the Dodgers, playing their first game in the new DAP on April 17, before a crowd of 1,587.