City leaders optimistic new ballpark will be key to additional c - - Columbia, South Carolina |

City leaders optimistic new ballpark will be key to additional commercial success

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Ballpark in Durham, North Carolina Ballpark in Durham, North Carolina

DURHAM, NC (WIS) - From just about anywhere around Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the view is spectacular for both baseball fans and the Durham business community.

Bill Kalkhof ran Durham's downtown development organization for two decades.

"Facilities like this are things that bring in the creative class type of people that downtown's need to grow and prosper," Kalkhof said.

Durham has done both.

New office buildings, apartments and condos, bars and restaurants and even a new performing arts center.

All clustered around the ballpark opened here in 1995 when the baseball team was still single-A.

By 1998, the Bulls went triple-A and development around the stadium had begun to accelerate.

As of about a year ago, nearly a billion and a half dollars in private and public partnership investment, most of it private.

Team franchise owner Jason Freier set up Thursday's trip to showcase what will follow when he puts a single-A team on the field in the new stadium to be built in Bull Street's Columbia Common project.

"People moved into downtown Durham because they got to have an office overlooking the ballpark," Freier said. "They might have otherwise been in a research triangle someplace. To use the Columbia analogy, they can maybe go and find cheaper office space with easy parking out in the county someplace, or in another county."

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said he knows the baseball park will be a catalyst for more development.

We're talking about a community that loves baseball. A community that needs more family friendly affordable options," Benjamin said. "We are talking about something that become a community asset. A community jewel that has to be more than 70 nights of baseball a year."

Also taking part in yesterday's tour was Columbia Common developer Bob Hughes who has a big job ahead if he's going to duplicate the success in Durham.

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