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News Sports: lacrosse, soccer and cricket plans take shape in Fort Worth, North...

Sports: lacrosse, soccer and cricket plans take shape in Fort Worth, North Texas

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Fort Worth and North Texas are making moves in the sports tourism market, even as many sports are on hiatus or curtailed by the current pandemic. Plans for lacrosse, soccer and cricket all began to take shape this week.

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, the Panther City Lacrosse Club was announced as the name of the National Lacrosse League’s (NLL) 14th franchise by team President and CEO Greg Bibb. Playing inside Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Panther City will begin play in November 2021 for the NLL’s 2021-2022 season.

Bibb was joined by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Dickies Arena President and General Manager Matt Homan, NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz, and Panther City Lacrosse General Manager and VP of Lacrosse Operations Bob Hamley for the organization’s launch event where the team’s name and brand were announced.

“We are excited to bring the National Lacrosse League and world-class professional lacrosse to north Texas, the great city of Fort Worth and Dickies Arena,” Bibb said. “As a Fort Worth resident, I’m proud to serve as a steward of this team, a community asset for the city and region to enjoy, support and rally around. For nearly 150 years Fort Worth has proudly owned the Panther City moniker. By naming the team the Panther City Lacrosse Club we unabashedly lean into that history and celebrate our thriving city and the people who make the 13th largest municipality in the United States feel like the best small town in America. Today we proudly announce to the world, we are Fort Worth, we are Panther City.”

“We are thrilled Panther City Lacrosse Club, the National Lacrosse League’s newest team, is calling Fort Worth and Dickies Arena home,” Price said in a news release. “It makes perfect sense that the fastest growing sport in the nation would select Fort Worth, one of the fastest growing cities in the country. We look forward to cheering on Fort Worth’s new home team.”

“The Panther City slogan is a symbol of Fort Worth’s historic aptitude for coming together, building momentum and delivering progress for the benefit of the community,” Homan stated. “Dickies Arena is one of the great products of this civic pride and determination and we are pleased today to add the Panther City Lacrosse Club to this list of remarkable achievements for Fort Worth. We are energized by this partnership with the National Lacrosse League and the caliber of competition it will bring to Dickies Arena, Fort Worth and Texas. Our new state-of-the-art facility will provide a top-notch experience for a world-class organization and its fans.”

Soccer pitch

Meanwhile, on Monday, Nov. 16, Fort Worth City Councilman Cary Moon made a pitch to the Keller Independent School Board about plans for an 8,000-seat sports complex with 16 soccer fields at the northeast corner of Interstate 35W and Basswood Boulevard.

Design of “Fort Worth Star” sports complex as presented to Keller ISB Board meeting

Because the area is in Fort Worth and is Keller ISD land, it would require the approval of the City of Fort Worth and Keller ISD. Moon told the board the cost of the facility would be $145 million. A proposed 25-year TIF would be set up to service bond debt.

During his presentation, Moon used the name “Fort Worth Star” but that is just a working title, he said.

The 8,000-seat stadium would have club seating, suite boxes and a safe-standing section, with covered seating, a grass field and a view of the Fort Worth skyline through the south end zone. The stadium could be used for high school football, professional soccer, high school soccer tournaments, high school graduations and UIL band competitions, among other uses, Moon said.

A goal would be to host a team for the 2026 World Cup, he said. Along with the sports complex, there would also be a performing arts center, modeled on the Austin ISD Performing Arts Complex built in 2018, Moon said. There would be a 1,200-seat theatre, a 250-seat black box theatre, and a 4,000-foot dance floor.

The 300-acre mixed-used development would also include medical, office, restaurant, retail and residential components. The estimated real estate value of the area is $900 million, according to Moon’s presentation.

A study suggests annual economic impact from the project of $16 million, though Moon acknowledged the current pandemic raises questions about future sports events.

A private partner would manage the complex. Construction could begin in 2022.

And on Tuesday, in Grand Prairie, the city council approved a plan to transform the former AirHogs Stadium into Major League Cricket’s first major cricket stadium in the United States.

Fans can purchase Panther City Lacrosse Club tickets starting today by calling 1-833-GOPCLAX or by visiting the team’s website, PantherCityLax.com.

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