Born: 1996 – WPF founding franchise.
Died: October 1, 1999 – The WPSL contracts the Durham franchise.
Stadium: Durham Athletic Park (2,006)
- 1997-1998: Women’s Professional Fastpitch
- 1999: Women’s Professional Softball League (re-branded)
The Durham Dragons were one of six founding franchises in Women’s Professional Fastpitch, a professional softball league that launched in the southeastern U.S. in the spring of 1997. All six clubs were centrally owned by the Denver-based league, which was backstopped primarily by a three-year, $4 million title sponsorship from AT&T Wireless Services.
Each WPF franchise carried a 15-woman roster and had a $74,000 salary cap during the 1997 inaugural season. Clubs typically played in softball-specific complexes or in aging minor league baseball stadiums. The Dragons played at the 70-year old Durham Athletic Park, which had been unused for professional sports for two years since the minor league baseball Durham Bulls departed for a new state-of-the-art stadium in 1995.
The Dragons drew nearly 2,000 fans on the league’s opening night on May 30th, 1997, but attendance settled in the low hundreds soon afterwards.
Following the league’s second season in 1998, Women’s Professional Fastpitch re-branded itself as the Women’s Professional Softball League. The Dragons played their third and final season under the WPSL banner in the summer of 1999. On October 1, 1999, the WPSL contracted four of its six clubs and announced the league would re-organize in a barnstorming tour format for the 2000 season.
“Softball’s New Cachet Spawns a League of Pros“, Barry Jacobs, The New York Times, June 10, 1997