After years of neglect, hopes and negotiations, it looks like baseball is coming back to Fort Worth. On Tuesday, the Tarrant Regional Water District made a deal to put historic LaGrave Field in the hands of investors who want to bring it back to life.
It’s welcome news to dedicated fans who’ve waited four years to cheer on their home team once again.
"It's really sad,” said longtime fan Stella Ballard. “You can't tell that there were ever bases or a pitcher's mound or anything."
But beneath the rough, Ballard sees the diamond that once was.
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"Watching a baseball game with the Fort Worth skyline in the background," she said.
A diamond that could now shine again.
"It feels wonderful to know that it may be just baby steps, but they're steps forward to bring baseball back," Ballard said.
She was the Fort Worth Cats' team photographer. When their last season ended in 2014, she started a Facebook group aimed at preserving the team's historic home.
"It's kind of been this little project, this little baby that you want to see it succeed and I think I literally teared up because it's just going to be amazing to see it come through," Ballard said.
On Tuesday, the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD), the group behind the booming Panther Island development, agreed to a trade: Swapping 15 acres of land along the Trinity River for eight acres that includes LaGrave Field, plus $1.3 million in cash.
The TRWD then signed a letter of intent to lease the stadium to the non-profit Save LaGrave Foundation to operate the stadium for 40 years.
And with that, Fort Worth City Councilman Carlos Flores says: "We're a lot closer to realizing the Fort Worth Cats coming back and LaGrave Field being restored than we've ever been before in the past."
Councilman Flores says that's critical to the larger Panther Island project.
"You can have a flavor for baseball right here, literally at the foot of downtown," Flores said.
But there is a lot of work yet to do. As part of the lease agreement, the Save LaGrave Foundation has to spend at least a million dollars in much-needed repairs in the first 18 months and another million dollars in the 18 months after that.
The Foundation will be responsible for all stadium expenses and the head of the group thinks it could cost up to $10 million to bring the place back to life.
Worth the price to fans like Ballard, for a future full of new memories.
"It's just right here, it's hometown," she said.
The Save LaGrave Foundation includes former executives from the Fort Worth Cats organization. They're hoping to revive an independent team to play in a Texas-centric league and expect to know by this fall if we'll have baseball back in Fort Worth as early as next summer.