Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Durham Rescue Mission & the DBAP

The Bulls hosted the Durham Rescue Mission last Friday evening for what has become an annual event. Their Big League Experience is batting practice for corporate types. The team from BB&T won for the fourth consecutive year. I'm not so sure these bankers are really baseball amateurs. (Ringers!?!)

$4,800 was raised for DRM's Operation Daily Bread. That's funding for day-to-day operations at the men's and women's facilities.

I'm a big fan of the Rev. Ernie and Gail Mills, their very effective ministry, and their vision for the Mission's expansion. A $4.5 million capital campaign is underway. The Mills are Durham's power couple - all about the power of faith and service.

The Durham Rescue Mission - averaging 200 residents daily - provides men, women and children with food, clothing, shelter, counseling and help with education and employment. It served 233,000 meals last year, offered 75,000 safe overnight stays, 11,000 hours of counseling and 86,000 hours of vocational training. The services are valued at close to $8,000,000 annually.

Spend some time on the Mission's website...learn more...click here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Changing a light bulb...200 feet above home plate

Our minor league ballpark has major league light poles. The DBAP's substantial roof was a challenge for the lighting engineers. The solution was to go up, up, up...well above the roof to illuminate the field with no shadows.

At a couple hundred feet, those light poles sway gently in the Bull City breeze - whole lotta shakin' goin' on - and each year the lighting fixtures have to be re-aimed and bulbs replaced. That takes a crane and a very brave maintenance guy!

A light bulb as big as your head!
Thanks to Greg Dumais for the photos.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bon Appetit on Blackwell St.

What did you do Monday night? Update your March Madness brackets? Watch Dancing with the Stars?

Forgive the bragging, but I was invited to a nine-course dinner at the Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham. Yes, nine courses with wine pairings. Three hours...on a Monday evening. I'm pretty much useless for the remainder of the week.

AI is on the American Tobacco campus, and its culinary school is literally across the street from the ballpark. The chefs-in-training matriculated with this grand dinner. AI's President, Chris Mesecar, invited a group of local chefs and foodies. As Durham's major purveyor of hot dogs, nachos and cold beer, I somehow made the guest list. I'm thinking it was a mistake, but Thank You to Chris and his chefs for a great evening!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Walk (or donate) to Defeat ALS

Full disclosure: This is a fund-raiser. It’s for ALS. I’m vice chair of the NC chapter. I have been procrastinating, but we need to get this done. Please, give me a financial assist as I support the Triangle Walk to Defeat ALS on Saturday, April 2 at the Credit Suisse campus in RTP.

CLICK HERE to donate on-line.

I’ve been on the board of the Jim “Catfish” Hunter Chapter of the ALS Assn since 2002. I refuse to rotate off of the board! The cause is so compelling:

- It’s a terrible disease. Researchers are bearing down on the cause, but there’s no cure. Imagine having a disease still shrouded in mystery for which modern medicine offers no real hope.

- Yet the patients and families I have met are exemplars of faith and courage. It is inspiring.

- This small NC non-profit is totally committed to patient care. No bureaucracy or large fund-raising apparatus. The needs of patients, families and their care-givers are the focus of our chapter.

- And finally, there’s the baseball connection. ALS is best known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and it claimed the life of NC’s favorite son and baseball legend, Catfish Hunter.

Here’s some boilerplate the chapter office urged me to include:

Through a nationwide Chapter network, The ALS Association leads the way in global research, coordinates multidisciplinary certified clinical care centers, supports the people and families of those affected by ALS and fosters government partnerships. The Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure.

Your tax-deductible gift will make a considerable difference in the lives of many! It is faster and easier than ever to support this great cause. You can make your donation online with a credit card by simply clicking on the link at the bottom of this message. If you would prefer, you can also send your tax-deductible contribution via check (payable to "ALSA" with “George Habel/TRI Walk” on the memo line) to the Catfish Chapter office at 120-101 Penmarc Drive, Raleigh, NC 27603.

Any amount, great or small, helps in the fight. Again, click here to donate on-line. I greatly appreciate your support!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Invest ten minutes: Learn more about ALS and our NC Chapter...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A fond farewell to Dillard's 'cue

A Bull City institution and eatery is closing its doors this week. Dillard's Bar-b-q will serve its last barbecue platter on Friday. No more chitlins, catfish or greens either.

There's an impact on the ballpark, too. Dillard's was our purveyor of 'cue dating back to the 1980's in the old Durham Athletic Park. Last season we sold 6,500 pork sandwiches. In total, we purchased over 4,000 pounds of Dillard's pulled pork for the concession stands and picnics in 2010. That's some serious pig pickin'!

...but I want to focus on the restaurant. "Soul food" was their fare, and it was more than a style of cuisine. You could say the Dillard family put the soul in soul food. That's how I feel about Wilma Dillard. She ran the place for her family, employees and the community...with a warm personality and a generous soul. Godspeed in the next chapter of your life. Stay out of the kitchen!

The Bull City Rising blog tells the story well; click here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wolfpack Hoops

I moved to Raleigh in February of 1983. The Wolfpack basketball team led by Sidney Lowe was on a tear that ended with a NCAA championship for NCSU. Neighbors were out in the street after the game; they even painted the pavement red and white that night. I got my first lesson in the cosmic importance of Tobacco Road basketball.

I’ve been associated with broadcasting and marketing NCSU athletics since ’83, so the significance of Sidney Lowe’s departure is not lost on me. We wish him well. He has conducted himself with great dignity, especially over the past couple of months. It’s telling that State AD Debbie Yow noted how Sidney offered her comfort at a point during their Tuesday meeting that ended his tenure as head coach. He’s a class act. Coaches are highly focused people working under incredible pressure. They can easily become self-absorbed and prickly. Not Sidney. Always gracious and helpful. A really good guy.

Moving on…to the future and the quest for a new coach. I totally disagree with folks who suggest Debbie Yow will have a hard time filling this position. The NCSU coaching job is a plum assignment. Great facilities. The opportunity to compete with coaching legends at the epicenter of college hoops. And a large, passionate fan base.

Regarding the latter, I offer another insight regarding what is often perceived as a negative vibe within Wolfpack Nation. I’ve been watching this for 28 years. Tongue-in-cheek...or truth? We report; you decide:

NC State trains engineers, scientists, mathematicians. Yes, it is “rocket science” at NCSU. When their beloved team is losing they are compelled to dissect and analyze. To study. To solve the puzzle. To find a solution. This creates considerable angst between heart and brain. It may appear to be negativity, but it’s really a clash of loyalty and intellect. It’s the zenith of PASSION.

This doesn’t happen with the same intensity at UNC because Chapel Hill is a bastion of liberal arts, the humanities. On Franklin Street is all about “feelings.” If your team isn’t doing so well, you continue to “feel” great about your school. Tar Heels are right-brain people. Feelings conquer facts.

Not so with left-brained Wolfpackers. They are analytical, objective, logical. Still, they are RAVING FANS of their University. No doubt about it!

(Forgive the stereotyping, but I’m convinced that I have this figured out!)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Value of Hospitality

...pardon the hiatus...back to blogging:

Yes, we're in the baseball business, but the Bulls are very much a part of NC's hospitality industry. Accordingly, I make note of Governor Perdue's report on visitor spending to the Gov's Conference on Tourism and Hospitality meeting today in Asheville.

Did you realize that NC is the sixth most visited state in the nation? We hosted 37 million guests last year. And despite the sluggish economy, visitors spent a record $17 billion last year. The previous record was $16.8 billion in 2008. We're blessed to live and do business in NC!

This reminded me of a 2007-08 study on the impact of Minor League ball in NC...$47 million in added value to the state's economy by our ten MiLB clubs. (Click here for the report.)

Now, I'm wondering about the impact of gas prices. Will that be good for the Bulls as folks seek entertainment closer to home? ...or will people simply travel less? It's hard to predict. We felt the 2008 spike in gas prices hurt us at the box office, yet we fared pretty well during the recession.

I'm reluctant to use the word "cheap" - it doesn't have a nice ring to it - but it does seem our patrons recognize that a night at the DBAP is downright cheap compared to the other options for a family outing. $54 for a family of four including 2 sodas, 4 dogs and 2 brewskis. Check out the Fan Cost Index.

And scan the landscape: According to Team Marketing Report, average ticket prices in each of the four major American sports range from $26 (Major League Baseball) to $75 (National Football League). The growing popularity of 3D films is pushing average movie ticket prices toward the $15 mark.

...so I'm feeling pretty good about $8.00 Bulls' tickets! A hospitality value. Take a look at our ticket options for the 2011 season.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

L'Uva at ATC. Grazie Mille!

My mother's maiden name is Giannini. The family heritage is wine-making in Tuscany...so I'm pretty excited about the new Italian eatery coming to the American Tobacco Campus.

Jim Anile (proprietor of Revolution on Main Street) will open L'Uva Enoteca in late spring...indoor/outdoor dining...intimate, neighborhood feel...emphasis on small plates and vino!

READ MORE at Bull City Rising

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lawn Care Update

We have three more weeks of winter, but the DBAP grass is looking pretty darned good.

Head Groundskeeper Scott Strickland had the field in great shape for our first Duke baseball game and Fanfest. Yes, we let fans on the field Friday and Saturday. Scott took it well...although there was some muttering about a possible "hostile work environment" complaint to HR.

These photos are the real deal...no Photoshop magic...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gettin' Ready for 2011

It's a madhouse at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. This weekend it will be a funhouse!

Opening Day isn't until April 14th, but tickets went on sale this week including the Boston Pops concert.

Duke plays baseball at the DBAP, and we have Fanfest 2011 this weekend.
On top of that, construction crews continue to spruce up the ballpark.

There's no reason to wait until mid-April. Join us in the Bull City this weekend.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Music from the Mound

Whenever the Bulls play Pawtucket, Boston fans flock to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Red Sox have a loyal and far flung following.

Boston's symphony has a big fan base, too. We will welcome them with open arms on August 16th when the Boston Pops perform at the DBAP. Tickets went on sale Monday at www.durhambulls.com.

The Pops will visit ten Minor League ballparks this summer and we're honored that the tour kicks off in Durham NC!

I predict a magical evening of entertainment: movie themes and rock n roll with a guest appearance from Kenny Loggins. Read all about it on the Pops' web site.

Here's what I'm working on...

Note the photo below. That's Shaquille O'Neal "guest conducting" the Boston Pops last December. It's possible that we could have a similar opportunity in Durham this summer. Who should it be? Coach K...Mayor Bell...Greg Fishel??? Can you think of a local "celebrity" worthy of this honor? I welcome your suggestions. Send me an e-mail.

I'm very pleased that the tour's promoter reached out to Durham's Genesis Home. This outstanding non-profit - that gets the homeless back on their feet - will benefit from concert promotion and a donation.