PRESS RELEASE – In an effort to return baseball to historic LaGrave Field, a non-profit foundation agreed to pay the Tarrant Regional Water District an upfront, 10-year market-rate lease for the facility that also includes a commitment by the group to spend $3 million on renovations to the minor league baseball field.
The Save LaGrave Foundation will spend at least $1.5 million on capital improvements over the next 18 months – and another $1.5 million in the next year and a half after that – to restore the 4,100-seat stadium, which hasn’t hosted a game since 2014.
Save LaGrave also will provide the District with a $1.75 million upfront, 10-year rent payment. Starting in the 11th year, the group will pay $14,500 a month in rent. Save LaGrave also is required to secure a minor league baseball team that will play at least 45 regular season games in a league similar to the one in which the Fort Worth Cats played.
The District also approved a deal with Panther Acquisition Partners Ltd. to swap 14.2 acres it currently owns under the Trinity River levees for 8.1 acres that included LaGrave Field. Panther Acquisitions will also pay the District $1.3 million as part of the deal.
“We’re not in the baseball business, all we’re doing is a land swap that protects the stadium and generates revenue for TRWD,” said Tarrant Regional Water District Board member Jim Lane. “It is a win for the community and for those who love the history and the heritage of the Fort Worth Cats.”
Under the 40-year lease Save LaGrave will pay for all costs associated with the stadium, including maintaining it in first-class condition, insurance, utilities and taxes.
Save LaGrave will also conduct at least 75 qualifying events each year at the stadium for other purposes, such as professional or amateur sporting events, civic and promotional activities to maximize the facility’s usage.
This restructured version of the original July 2018 agreement increases the initial capital investment requirement in the stadium.
“I am very supportive of the efforts being made to bring Fort Worth Cats baseball back to LaGrave Field,” said Carlos Flores, Fort Worth City Councilman District 2. “It presents economic development opportunities that will benefit District 2 and the City of Fort Worth.”
Scott Berry, president of the Save LaGrave Foundation and Panther Park Enterprises commented that “This is great news for baseball fans in Fort Worth as well as the entire Fort Worth community as we bring back baseball, soccer, concerts and numerous community events to historic LaGrave Field. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve run across the last few months that kept asking for the latest news on the Cats and the ballpark. I’ve talked to community leaders, local businesses as well as former season ticket holders who are really pumped up about the future of LaGrave Field and the Cats.”
Lead investor Mark Caffey of Fort Worth’s Caffey Group added “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. 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.”
“I know this group has been working diligently on this project for several years,” said Dennis Shingleton, Fort Worth City Councilman District 7. “It’s very exciting to see a definitive deal come to fruition. The proposed transaction would be good for the Northside and the entire Fort Worth community. It would mark the return of an iconic asset and provide fun, affordable family entertainment for community.”
In discussing his group’s plans to create major league experiences at minor league prices, Berry said “Our goal is to provide affordable family entertainment on multiple fronts and bring back that unique ballpark atmosphere to LaGrave Field, like it was when the Cats were winning championships from 2005-2007. I’ve always said there is an electric feeling on summer nights at LaGrave Field when the stands are packed and you see that breathtaking view of downtown Fort Worth. It’s something you’ll never forget.
“The Cats began play as an original member of the Texas League in 1888. After significant success on the field in the early 1920’s, the initial LaGrave Field was built in 1926. Over the years the ballpark hosted baseball royalty like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams as well as about 45 other Hall of Famers. In addition, the success of the Cats in the 40’s and 50’s under the leadership of Bobby Bragan and the play of stellar Brooklyn Dodger minor league players created an enduring love affair between the Cats and the Fort Worth community.