Shimmer Walls and tours of the old State Capitol just aren't going to hack it: The Triangle Business Journal's latest readers' poll shows that what people want for downtown Raleigh is a sports and entertainment venue. The RBC Center, where the Carolina Hurricanes play, is halfway to Durham County. Of 942 people who responded to the survey, more than a quarter mentioned the sports angle, while 22 percent wanted another major business HQ to join RBC and Progress Energy. More impenetrable corporate buildings? zzzzzz.... Unless that major business would be a full-fledged grocery store, another item on the Raleigh wish list.
The New York Times has a poignant story about the Tampa Bay Rays' Dan Johnson, who until Monday was a Durham Bull. He helped propel the Rays over their rivals, the Boston Red Sox, at Fenway Park, on Tuesday, as the Times reported, in a 5-4 win, which might have been the most important victory in franchise history.
In a turnaround season that has been filled with superb stories for the Rays, Johnson showed up late from Class AAA Durham, hit a pinch-hit, game-tying homer off a formidable pitcher and crafted a tale that was as compelling as any other that Tampa Bay has authored.
And by the time Wednesday's 14-inning game was over, the good guys had held on to their two-and-a-half game lead over the second-place Red Sox.
As a designated hitter for the Bulls, Johnson, a 29-year-old native of Coon Rapids, Minn., hit .307 with 121 hits, 25 home runs and 83 RBIs over 121 games this season.
The Herald-Sun reports today that county commissioners agreed to give the Durham County Memorial Stadium a $7.7 million upgrade (registration required) during a Tuesday work session. (The day-old H-S report breaks the story among Triangle media, which have followed the stadium story in the past.) According to The Durham News, an N&O community weekly, the proposal--which covers a new press box, handicapped accessibility, astro-turf and urinals, among other amenities--will come to a vote during a public commissioners' meeting Nov. 18. (In an unrelated news item, the Durham County Web site is apparently ridden with malicious software, according to our Firefox 3 browser.)
The News reports that Shaw University, which once flirted with matching Durham County's funds for the stadium, will instead continue playing football there on a per diem basis. According to the News, the price tag for the stadium improvements-- the first since its construction in 1959--has tripled, at least on the county's end: from half of $4.5 million (had Shaw matched funds) to the whole nine yards of $7.7 million. The News writes that these funds will "trickle down from the $121.5 million the county has planned for a new health and human services complex." I believe there's a urinal joke to be made.
From the News:
Within two years, sports fans will be able to enjoy football or soccer games, and take their breaks in new bathrooms. The old men's room urinal troughs will be replaced with new fixtures, and there will be family restrooms for adults and young children to share.
We just got back in town and discovered a couple of notable late-season transactions for the Durham Bulls and its parent club, the remarkable, pennant-charging Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
First, center fielder Fernando Perez, a favorite here at the Indy, was recalled to Tampa Bay Aug. 31. Perez is the fastest player in the Devil Rays organization and frequently found his way on base via drag-bunting. He's also a Brian Eno fan and possibly the best baseball player to come out of Columbia University since Lou Gehrig. He was featured in our June fashion spread, which focused on area athletes. He'll bring his extreme speed to a Tampa Bay club that has the best record in baseball. Look for him to appear as a pinch-runner and late-inning defensive replacement. Perez leaves Durham with 43 stolen bases and a .288 batting average. He also led the team in strikeouts, with 156.
And, in this, the 20th anniversary of the film Bull Durham, the team had its own veteran catcher, 39-year-old Mike DeFelice. DeFelice was released by the Bulls Sept. 1. Not long ago, the News and Observer profiled DeFelice and discovered there's one thing he doesn't like to talk about.
Also on Sept. 1, catcher John Jaso was also recalled to Tampa after appearing in 31 games for the Bulls.