Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Vandals target Seacoast United Soccer Club

Now here's a story that'll get your blood boiling, especially if you're among the many soccer parents who enjoy having Seacoast United Soccer Club's spectacular field complex right in our backyard in Epping.

Vandals hit the complex this week and made a huge mess that'll cost at least $15,000 to fix. It's really sad. Declan's Fremont travel team played there on Sunday for the first time and it was perfect. The next day vandals decided to leave their mark.

Here's the scoop.

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent
EPPING - Vandals caused more than $15,000 in damage to a soccer field complex Monday night when they sliced apart soccer nets and large banners, fired paintballs, flipped over portable toilets and drove across one of the fields.

Police are now searching for the culprits behind the vandalism spree at Seacoast United Soccer Club’s outdoor facility on Shirkin Road.

“I don’t know if somebody was trying to be vindictive or wanted to have some fun, but it was just sickening. It’s nothing more than just a kick in the teeth,” said Paul Willis, the club’s executive director.

The damage to Field 4 was discovered late Monday afternoon when members of a team showed up for practice. As many as 14 large banners advertising the names of sponsors were cut up with a knife, along with the soccer nets. The field was littered with the banners and trash that was left behind by the vandals.

Willis said paintballs had also been shot at the shelters that cover the area where players sit. The players and staff cleaned up the mess.

“It was disappointing for the kids down at the field to come and see it. I had boys coming up to me saying, “Why would somebody do this?’” Willis said.

Police Sgt. Sean Gallagher said it was the first case of vandalism at the Seacoast United complex since it opened in Epping in 2006. The club, which has an indoor facility in Hampton, draws players from around New England who regularly use the outdoor facility, which includes four fields made from expensive artificial turf.

Gallagher said it was obvious that a vehicle had driven over Field 4. A tire mark was left on the field when the vehicle apparently accelerated. While a gate is locked at the entrance to the complex, Gallagher said he believes the vandals managed to get around the gate with the vehicle.

Police have no suspects at this time, but Seacoast United is offering a reward for information in the case.

“The damage seems more like it was from juveniles, but who knows,” Gallagher said.

The vandalism stunned parents who showed up for practices last night. “I don’t understand it. Why would somebody want to do that?” asked Lise Cheney of Bow, whose daughter plays on a U11 team.

Parent Karen Stevens of Londonderry had the same questions. Not only did they cause thousands in damage, but the vandals also “hurt the kids who play here because it disrupted their time.”

Christine Eichholz of Stratham said the club has done so much for the community, noting how it has tried to be a good neighbor by allowing Epping and Fremont teams to use the fields.

Anyone with information about the vandalism is urged to call Epping police at 679-5122.

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