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Fort Worth Cats Owner Announces Sale To Former Rangers President

By Chuck Schechner, NewsRadio 1080 KRLD & Joel Thomas, CBS 11 News
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FORT WORTH (1080 KRLD) – The financially troubled Fort Worth Cats minor league ball team has been sold to a group headed by former Texas Rangers president Mike Stone.

The ‘SOLD’ sign is now up at LaGrave Field: Owner Carl Bell announced the sale Wednesday on-site from the bleachers. Stone says he’s confident in the future of the minor league club, which will move to the North American Baseball League.

“Certainly the Cats have interwoven their history with that of the city,” Stone said. “We intend to be good citizens and carry on that kind of tradition.”

Even with the sale, Bell is still dealing with the potential of a foreclosure on LaGrave Field, which is not included in the deal.

The stadium and some surrounding acreage near Calhoun St. in North Fort Worth are posted for a foreclosure auction on Jan. 3 at the Tarrant County Courthouse. Bell hopes to reach an agreement with the lender before that date. Bell was unable to repay a $12.5 million loan.

“There is back debt on the stadium and that surrounding land,” Bell said, “we have been in negotiations with many parties” and Bell added that he expects that will be resolved “soon.”

None of the participating parties revealed the cost of the deal.

The Cats will be moving to the North American Baseball League, the “largest professional independent baseball league worldwide,” according to its website.

The team has not been associated with a league since October, when it declined to renew a three year agreement with the American Association.

“As we explored all of the options for the future of LaGrave Field and the Fort Worth Cats, it was our decision to hold off on committing to another three-year agreement at this time, and to make sure we chose the best option for  the  future,” read a statement on the ball club’s website.

Fort Worth will play in the South Division, joining Texas minor league clubs from San Angelo, McAllen, Edinburg and Harlingen. The Yuma Scorpions, in Arizona, round out the division. The North American Baseball League was recently formed after merging three regional leagues in the Western U.S. and Canada.

“You can make money,” said new Cats COO Byron Pierce. “It’s not as lucrative as some people think because there are so many moving parts.”

There are about 300 days out of the year without baseball at LaGrave field. The new owners plan on using more promotions to bolster attendance numbers. They’re also counting on growth around the ball field: The nearby Trinity River Vision Project has plans to develop canals and riverfront dining and entertaining around LaGrave field.

“We will endeavor and succeed at making the best possible use of this great facility in an emerging part of the city,” said John Bryant, one of the investment partners making up Trinity Vision Partners LLC, which bought the Cats.

Bell said he was saddened about having to sell the team he revitalized in 2002. But, he said, he will now bring his grandchildren to the park to enjoy games without having to worry about attendance numbers.
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