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LaGrave Field Agreement Could Pave Way for Cats’ Return

Fort Worth Cats

The effort to revive LaGrave Field and the Fort Worth Cats is moving forward, as a foundation will take over and repair the shuttered ballpark under a new lease.

As part of a plan designed to save LaGrave Field from the wrecking ball, Houston-based Panther Acquisition Partners has swapped the 8.1 acre site hosting the ballpark for a larger, 14.2-acre site that was controlled by the Tarrant Regional Water District. Water district board of directors, in turn, voted Tuesday to approve a lease agreement with the Save LaGrave Foundation, a non-profit led by Scott Berry, a former owner of multiple independent American Association teams.

The lease agreement approved Tuesday calls for Save LaGrave to invest at least $1.5 million in capital improvements over the next 18 months, followed by another $1.5 million in upgrades over the ensuing 18 months. In addition, the foundation will pay the water district a $1.75 million upfront, 10-year rent payment, while lease payments would go to $14,500 monthly in year 11. Lease conditions require that the foundation use the ballpark for a total of 120 events annually, with a professional baseball team to play a minimum of 45 home games.

Plans to secure a team for the revived LaGrave Field are not yet final, but the goal for backers could land an independent league team as early as 2020. More from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Energy executive Mark Caffey is the lead investor.

“Today’s approval allows us to move forward with our plans to renovate the ballpark and finalize the financial structure necessary to accomplish our goals,” Caffey said in a statement. “We’ll have a lot more updates in the coming weeks regarding refurbishing the ballpark, the details of our future operations and hiring a staff.”

Berry said he is pushing for baseball at the park by 2020.

“Without a doubt, we would be playing in 2021, but we’re going to give it every effort play in 2020,” he said.

The American Association and Atlantic League are two independent circuits that currently do business in Texas. For the 2019 season, the American Association is fielding clubs in Grand Prairie and Cleburne, while the Sugar Land Skeeters are the Atlantic League’s lone Texas-based team.

We took a closer look at the long and unique history of LaGrave Field last year, 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.

RELATED STORIES: Funding Key to Reviving LaGrave Field, Fort Worth CatsTalk About Nine Lives: Fort Worth Cats Home Could ReturnLaGrave Field Suffering Through Years of NeglectSale of LaGrave Field finally goes throughBell files bankruptcy, preventing LaGrave Field foreclosure

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