Kirk: Atlantic League looking at Fort Worth

Udpate: I’ve received some e-mails asking to detail the situation in Fort Worth. ODP and Peter Kirk had been in talks with Fort Worth. He would like to continue the conversation. However, no new talks have taken place since new ownership took over the team. Kirk stated Monday that he would like to “continue to pursue the possibility” of a Fort Worth franchise joining the Atlantic League.

Fort Worth Cats owner John Bryant stated he has not talked to Kirk and he is happy with United League Baseball.

Opening Day Partners chairman Peter Kirk confirmed his ownership group is in talks with Fort Worth with the hopes of planting an Atlantic League franchise at the current home of the Fort Worth Cats. The Cats currently play at LaGrave Field, a ballpark Kirk classified as half-finished by Atlantic League standards. Architects that work with ODP have looked at the stadium and believe the shell of LeGrave Field can be saved and used after a renovation/addition has been completed to bring the stadium more in line with other Atlantic League parks.

For one, ODP would like to add permanent concession stands instead of relying on portable stands that are in use now.

The Cats play in the United League, a short-season independent league. So ODP would need to work out the politics and finances of the deal and stadium renovation before Fort Worth could join the Atlantic League, meaning Fort Worth probably wouldn’t be on the Atlantic League map for a couple years.

The Fort Worth market appeals to ODP because of its sheer size, and it would fill the need for the league to add another franchise in Texas — joining Sugar Land. Kirk likes the location of the ballpark. Kirk noted if the league could pick up a franchise in Fort Worth, the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston (Sugar Land) markets could serve as bookends to the Atlantic League’s proposed Western Division. Even before Sugar Land played its first game in the Atlantic League in 2012, league officials expressed their desire to add a Western Division comprised of at least four teams in the Texas/Louisiana area in order to develop geographic rivals and also lessen the amount of Sugar Land’s travel.

Although Kirk declined to reveal details of other possible expansion markets, he did say other municipalities in Texas have been in contact with his group with the intention of building stadiums.

Atlantic League expansion in the Woodlands area — what would be a natural geographic rival for Sugar Land — appears to be in a holding pattern at the moment since the Astros have announced their intention of placing a Triple-A club there. But that move will take some serious moves on the Astros part. The Astros Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City has a lease with the Astros through 2014. So the Astros would need to buy another Triple-A franchise and move it to the Woodlands. If that plan falls through, and it could, the Atlantic League could once again be in play to plant another team in the Houston suburbs.

About Jim Seip

Jim Seip wore a cookie monster costume to help close out the Spectrum on Oct. 31, 2009.

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