The effort to revive the Fort Worth Cats and save LaGrave Field is well underway, but funding will be crucial to making the plan a reality.
A plan is currently in the works to save LaGrave Field from the wrecking ball. Houston-based Panther Acquisition Partners is swapping the 8.1 acre site hosting the ballpark for a larger, 15.3-acre site now controlled by the Tarrant Regional Water District. The ballpark site will then be leased to Save LaGrave Foundation, which will repair and run the ballpark, contingent on paying $4 million immediately and later paying $3 million in prepaid rent. The 40-year lease also calls for the Save LaGrave Foundation to spend $2 million in capital improvements over the next three years, as well as pick up all ballpark costs, including taxes and utilities.
Along with other events, including sports such as soccer, the revived LaGrave Field could become home to a new independent-league incarnation of the Cats. Scott Berry, formerly an owner of multiple American Association teams, will play a major role in the process by launching both the non-profit foundation and for-profit Cats. The foundation is working to obtain funding to account for the $4 million needed at signing, plus additional money to cover other expenses. It is an effort that is vital to making the plan work, but Berry believes that donors are ready step up and assist in the effort. :
The foundation will need more gifts to pay for stadium repairs — at least $2 million, probably more — plus insurance and upkeep.
Berry, 62, said he has donors ready to help.
“I think LaGrave is special, and I think Fort Worth is a really special spot right now,” Berry said.
“Fort Worth wants to create its own identity. I think Panther Island is a big part of that.”
We took a closer look at the long and unique history of LaGrave Field last week, including the story behind the original iteration that was constructed in 1926 and how it was reborn in the early 2000’s after being rebuilt by local businessman Carl Bell. Though the original ballpark had been torn down in 1967, the job was done on the cheap, so the original dugouts and walkways were still there, buried under some rubble. (They were occupied mainly by snakes — a challenge to the crew digging them out.) Early on the decision was made to keep the original dugouts, but they were converted into unique seating areas with their own entrances. Bell eventually lost control of the ballpark and sold it to his lender. It has changed hands since, but has not been active in recent years, leaving its condition to deteriorate.
The independent Southwest League, which is slated to begin play next year, or American Association could be options if a revival of the Cats comes to fruition. However, the league is one of the areas that remains to be seen.
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