The act of vandalism that damaged the Johnson Lane Recreational Area soccer fields last weekend may likely cost thousands of dollars to fix, according to Tullahoma Parks and Recreation Director Kurt Glick.
The fields, which host games for 700 to 1,000 community soccer players, were repeatedly driven over, leaving deep, muddy treads in some areas and tire tracks over others.
The damage was discovered early Sunday morning, when fields were scheduled to be used by an adult soccer league.
Tullahoma High School girls soccer coach Marvin Carson, who also plays in the adult league scheduled to use the field, got a phone call early Sunday morning telling him he needed to go look at the field.
“Whenever it rains, we always go to check the condition of the fields to make sure that it was dry enough to see if we can play,” Carson said. “We knew that there had been some rain, so I was headed out there and one of the guys who was out there, called and said that I needed to get out there because somebody had damaged the field.”
“It’s no exaggeration to say that several hundred people a week play on those fields,” Carson added. “There are a lot of people who were using the field and were reliant on those fields. It’s not like we are metropolitan area with an abundance of fields.”
Carson took video of the damages done to the fields, which has now gone viral on Facebook, reaching 772 shares on the social media platform.
According to Glick, the weekend’s incident piggybacked off another incident earlier in the week.
“Earlier in the week, somebody had done something similar, but not nearly to the extent that was done on Saturday,” he said.
Glick said this kind of vandalism isn’t persistent at the fields, but the fields have been vandalized prior to the incidents this week.
“It has happened before, but it’s not been a consistent problem, like continually happening,” he said. “It’s just a sporadic thing.”
According to Glick, the repairs needed to bring the fields back to their former glory will range anywhere from the “thousands of dollars” to the “tens of thousands of dollars.” Depending on how detailed a repair job is needed, he said, the price will fluctuate.
“There are several different methodologies we could [use] to repair it, and that would make a difference on how much it would cost to actually fix it,” he said. “If we went to a lesser repair, it would be thousands of dollars; a more major repair would be tens of thousands of dollars. It just depends on how much we have to get into.”
Glick said the main cost of vandalism like this is the opportunity cost from groups not being able to use the fields.
One of the key worries for Carson now is where the Tullahoma High School girls soccer team will hold its preseason tournament. According to the Lady Wildcats’ head coach, Tullahoma was slated to host a 13-team tournament on Aug. 24, using the fields at Johnson Lane. However, with the damages, Carson is now trying to develop a contingency plan, in case the fields aren’t fixed in time.
“When I saw the field, that was my first immediate reaction was ‘Oh my gosh, what are we going to do about our tournament?’” Carson said. “This is really a black eye for Tullahoma.”
“That’s what we lose by this kind of vandalism,” Glick added. “We also lose the opportunity for the tens of thousands of dollars that we spend on repairing things that we’ve already built to be used. We lose the opportunity to build new stuff – new recreation opportunities or other renovations.”
Glick said it appears that the field repairs can be done with existing labor and materials from the city.
“The estimation is right now that it’s going to be something we’ll be able to solve in-house, just a bunch of labor on our part,” he said. “We might have to purchase additional sod.”
In addition to repairing the actual fields, Glick said he is currently looking into fencing options to create a new barrier between the fields and vehicles to deter any future vandals.
“I want it to be a decorative fencing but also a barrier for vehicles being able to get on the field – something that could look nice and be utilitarian at the same time,” he said. “That would be the best option, because we stop [vandalism] before it ever happens.”
Glick said there is also the possibility of installing security cameras at the fields, though that would not happen before the fencing was added.
While cameras are good at helping determine who commits acts of vandalism after the fact, the hope is to deter the acts before they happen at all with fencing.
“[Cameras are] more to try to catch the culprit after somebody’s done the damage; so to me, the first thing we should do is put measure in place to try to prevent it from happening in the future,” he said. “Then, once we get that in place, we’ll work on the surveillance aspect of it and be able to catch other vandalism that might occur.”
Carson, with the help of his children, started a GoFundMe account, aimed to help raise money for the needed repairs. According to the account page, there is a $500 reward for anyone with any information that leads to the conviction of the person or people responsible.
GoFundMe itself also reached out to spread awareness of the campaign. According to an email from Meghan Scripture with GoFundMe Regional Communications, more than $2,000 was raised in the campaign in just one day.
“The momentum is not slowing,” Scripture said.
A link to the GoFundMe can be found here, or use the widget below.
Additionally, anyone who would like donate time to help the parks and recreation department repair the fields is encouraged to contact Tullahoma Parks and Recreation at 455-1121.
Glick said he welcomes any kind of help anyone was willing to offer, including time, money or materials.
For example, if a business wants to donate the materials for the new fencing, Glick said, they could certainly do that.
“We would be willing to listen to any offers of help that are out there,” he said. “We wouldn’t turn anything down. We would be happy to receive any kind of help, financially or through work-in-kind to achieve the ultimate goal of protecting the fields.”