For more than six decades, the venerable Durham County Memorial Stadium has hosted a cornucopia of local, regional, and national sporting events, as well as annual county fairs and concerts, including the Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival.

Over the next two years, the 8,500-seat stadium in North Durham will share a sliver of the nation’s gridiron spotlight. This week, officials with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in Kansas City, Missouri, announced that the county stadium will host the NAIA Football Championship and Senior Football Classic games for both the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

The 66-year-old annual championship game will be held in Durham on December 18, NAIA officials said in a Tuesday press release. NAIA represents 241 small colleges and universities, including two North Carolina institutions—Montreat College and St. Andrews University.

In a word, local sports officials and county leaders are ecstatic about hosting the NAIA’s championship game, which is the sports organization’s premier event.

“We are thrilled,” Zach Pritchard, manager of Durham County Memorial Stadium, said in a press release. “Football has been one of the foundations of the stadium when it was built in the 1950’s and seeing a return of Championship Football to the Stadium is a testament of the support that the Durham community has had for the facility throughout the years. We thank the NAIA for their confidence in us to host one of their prestigious events and we look forward to working with our partners at the Durham Sports Commission to show the student-athletes, teams and fans what the Bull City has to offer.”

Dan Hill, board chair of the Durham Sports Commission, nearly let out a victory whoop in the NAIA release.

“The Durham Sports Commission is both delighted and excited to be the host city for the NAIA National Football Championship,” he said. “On behalf of the Board of Directors, we are looking forward to welcoming the teams, their fans and the NAIA officials to Durham!”

Hosting the NAIA’s flagship event and senior football classic is an apt recompense following the local sport’s commission efforts in recent years to bring high-profile sporting events to the Bull City. Durham County has made significant investments to improve and upgrade the multi-use facility, which was built in 1958. The county has spent more than $2 million in renovations since 2018 and intends to invest another $1.5 million over the next two years, county officials said in a press release. 

Other events held at the stadium include middle and high school championships, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Football Championships, and Legends of Honduras International soccer match. It was also the former home of the Shaw University Bears football team from 2007-2018 and the Triangle Rattlers professional football team, according to the county stadium release.

The stadium’s Willie Bradshaw Field features a handsome artificial turf surface lined for football, soccer, and lacrosse. County officials note that the swaggering stadium routinely punches above its weight and is home to the 2021 AUDL Champion Raleigh Flyers ultimate disc squad, USL2 Tobacco Road FC soccer team, and Northern High School football. 

“Upgrades since 2019 to the track and field facilities have allowed it to host dynamic events from local clubs, USA Track & Field (USATF), Big Eight Athletic Conference, the Powerade State Games, and the North Carolina Senior State Games,” officials stated in the release. 

Motiryo Keambiroiro, director of Durham County General Services, said the NAIA’s choosing of the Durham County Memorial Stadium shows that the county’s commitment to improvements is paying dividends for Durham County’s residents and businesses.

“In partnership with the Durham Sports Commission, the Durham County Memorial Stadium Authority, County Board of Commission and the General Services Staff we welcome the NAIA 2021 and 2022 Football Championships,” she said in the county stadium release. “We look forward to the games, fans and the excitement that it will bring to the County Stadium and the surrounding businesses.”

For more information on the NAIA football championship game, visit

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