Editorials

LaGrave Field should be for everybody, not just Cats

Stella Ballard loves the Fort Worth Cats and LaGrave Field. So when the ballpark caught on fire earlier this year, she was heartbroken. But it also "lit a fire" under her to do what she could to save the ballpark. Lucky for her, there is a deal in the works that could possibly save the ballpark.
Stella Ballard loves the Fort Worth Cats and LaGrave Field. So when the ballpark caught on fire earlier this year, she was heartbroken. But it also "lit a fire" under her to do what she could to save the ballpark. Lucky for her, there is a deal in the works that could possibly save the ballpark. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

If Fort Worth wants to save LaGrave Field, let’s do it.

But let’s do it as an events center for the entire city, not just for the transient business of independent league baseball.

Panther Island officials have signed an agreement to trade nearby land for $1.3 million and the decaying 2002 ballpark. The agreement in turn calls for leasing it to a charity foundation currently led by a former Fort Worth Cats executive.

If LaGrave is going to be run as a community charitable cause, the governing foundation board should fairly reflect the entire community.

Baseball, soccer and other men’s and women’s sports interests should be represented in the LaGrave management. So should arts groups and city, school and higher education officials.

LaGrave already failed as a private business.

If it’s going to succeed — and that is a big “if” — then “saving LaGrave” will have to become everybody’s business.

There is clearly an occasional demand for a boutique public stadium, particularly one with a striking view of downtown, until apartments and shops surround it on Panther Island as part of the new project along the West Fork of the Trinity River.

Soccer — either minor league or independent — is one likely tenant. A new Cats independent baseball team would also surface, maybe in a new league against an already-announced team in Dallas.

Concerts, festivals, ceremonies and college or high school sports events might fill out a schedule. If a concert’s too small for the new Dickies Arena, it might go to LaGrave.

If all this sounds uncertain, it is.

Directors of the Fort Worth-based Tarrant Regional Water District have voted to make the land swap with Houston-based Panther Acquisition Partners, one of the largest developers and investors on Panther Island.

But the deal depends on whether the Decatur-based Save LaGrave Foundation led by former Cats executive Scott Berry can deliver $4 million up front. The foundation is also expected to pay the water district and another $3 million within 18 months.

If LaGrave’s purpose is too narrow and the project founders, water district directors will be stuck with a suffering ballpark, and the project may face closure for the third time since the original stadium on the site was built in 1926.

For 17 years, this Editorial Board has consistently said that LaGrave should remain in private hands and thrive or fail as a taxpaying business. That did not work out.

If it’s becoming a public civic arena, let’s make sure it benefits the entire city.

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