Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fort Worth's Defunct Lagrave Field Is No Longer The Envy Of Its League

What you are looking at here is the home base view of Fort Worth's defunct Lagrave Field, where the Fort Worth Cats used to play baseball in an extremely minor league against towns a fraction of Fort Worth's size.

Over a decade ago I was motivated to check out Fort Worth's new ballpark after reading the following in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram...

In the late Winter of 2003, in the sports section of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, in an article about the coming baseball season, the Fort Worth Cats and La Grave Field, the writer said that La Grave Field, in its short existence, had become "the envy of the league...". It was decided to have a look at this Ballpark which had become the envy of the league, as it was assumed it must be spectacular, what with the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington just down the road a few miles.

Well, it did not take me long to find out that the league of which Fort Worth's field was the envy consisted of teams and towns I had never heard of, such as the Alexandria Aces, the Jackson Senators, the Ozark Mountain Ducks, the Edinburg Roadrunners, the Coastal Bend Aviators and the Rio Grande Whitewings.

You reading this in cities of Fort Worth's size, give or take a few hundred thousand, I guarantee I am not making this up. This town, with a population over 800,000, prided itself on supposedly having a better ballpark than that which the Ozark Mouuntain Ducks, and others, play ball in.

Another look at Lagrave Field, the envy of its league, now out of business.

The above photos were taken back in 2003, back when the envy of its league was still in good shape, before deterioration and a broken scoreboard became the ballpark's norm.

Long ago I documented, via a webpage, my astonishment at this sad excuse for a ballpark in a big American city, in a webpage titled, Fort Worth's La Grave Field. Included among what I photo documented, was the fact that way back in 2003, when Lagrave Field was the envy of its league, it  had no indoor restroom facilities, instead using the Fort Worth standard for its parks.


You reading this in other big towns in America, again, I am not making this up.

The Wikipedia article about Lagrave Field made no mention of it being the envy of its league, but did make note of the financial woes which drove the ballpark out of business....

Recent financial challenges

In February 2010, former Fort Worth Cats owner Carl Bell defaulted on $30 million in notes with LaGrave Field as collateral. Although Amegy Bank had the right to foreclose on the field and some of the adjacent acreage, the bank did not decide to immediately exercise that right. Former owner Carl Bell also owed over $195,000 USD in property taxes and penalties for 2010 and sought a buyer for the stadium. A scheduled (January 3, 2012) foreclosure auction was averted due to a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing by LaGrave Reconstruction Company. Several months later, the debt holder Amegy Bank of Houston finally completed foreclosure and became the landlord of the Cats. On Tuesday, October 2, 2012 it was announced that LaGrave Field had been bought by an affiliate of the team's new ownership group for $4.5 million USD.

This week's Fort Worth Weekly has an article about the Lagrave Field woes titled Needing a Forever Home.

I was a little confused by the Fort Worth Weekly article. Mention is made of the fact that former owner, Carl Bell, who brought the Cats back to Lagrave Field in 2001, had also bought many of the acres which surrounded the ballpark, anticipating this would become valuable land due to what is known now as The Boondoggle. However, when the Trinity River Vision Boondoggle project moved at a snail's pace, along with the Great Recession, Bell found himself having money woes, with the Fort Worth Weekly article saying Bell was rescued by a guy named Bryant and a former Texas Rangers President named Mike Stone, who bought the team in 2012 and paid off its debts. But could not afford the ballpark.

Which does not make a lot of sense to me.

What I am remembering is the reports that Bell got himself a sweetheart deal, arranged by a TRWD board member friend, with that deal purchasing a large chunk of Bell's land for a very healthy sum, with the TRWD then leasing part of that land to the entity which foisted on Fort Worth the bizarre first drive-movie theater of the 21st century, known as the Coyote Drive-In.

If no one comes forward to buy Lagrave Field the new owners have indicated it will be torn down in order to develop the property.

I think this would be a good thing to tear down that rundown eyesore. However TRWD board member Jim Lane thinks differently, quoted in the FW Weekly article as saying...

"If it gets town down, every elected official  in Fort Worth ought to be ashamed of themselves."


I think there are plenty of reasons every elected official in Fort Worth ought to be ashamed of themselves, but tearing down this ballpark is not one of them.

The fact that Fort Worth does not seem to know how to build a ballpark of the sort other big, and some little towns, do, well that is something for the elected officials to be ashamed of.

Just go to my old home zone of Washington and check out the minor league baseball parks in towns much smaller than Fort Worth, such as Tacoma's Cheney Stadium, Everett's Memorial Stadium, Bellingham's Joe Martin Field. Even my old home town of Mount Vernon has a baseball park, Sherman Anderson Field, where, while no minor league calls it home, the Skagit County Fair does. And Sherman Anderson Field has indoor restrooms of the non-outhouse variety.

Those elected officials who should be ashamed of themselves should just take a short drive north, to Oklahoma City and check out Bricktown, where they will find a new, but classic looking baseball park.

In Bricktown those elected officials who should be ashamed of themselves will also find a Trinity River Vision type project that has actually been completed. If I remember right the signage I saw at the time I visited Bricktown, well over ten years ago, indicated it was the result of around a $1 billion bond issue.

Yes. Oklahoma City voters voted to build Bricktown. Again, what a concept. And imagine that, voted on, approved by the voters, fully funded. And built.

Oklahoma got a lot for their billion bucks. A very cool San Antonio-like Riverwalk, with restaurants and shops. Another sporting venue, besides the ballpark. I think this may be where the basketball team Aubrey McClendon stole from Seattle plays. I don't know if Myriad Gardens was part of the bond issue which built Bricktown, but it is part of the complex, and very well done.

If only the Trinity River Vision Boondoggle had the vision to go about its project in the way Oklahoma City did, Fort Worth might be reaping the benefits at this point in time, rather than waiting for the slowpoke construction of Three Bridge Over Nothing, with another wait in four years, waiting for money to be found to start building the ditch so water can be added under the bridges....


Anonymous said...

It has/had restrooms. I went to the old park and the new one and I kinda thought it was OK.
Watch TRWD pick it up for crumbs.

Durango said...

Anonymous, I can't help but wonder how many years after I saw the unfortunate Lagrave outhouse installation that the facilities one expects to find in a modern American ballpark were added....