CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — Several hundred youth soccer players in Cuyahoga Falls are facing uncertainty for their upcoming spring season. The city says vandals tore through more than 10 playing fields at Water Works Park this week.
“This is a source of entertainment, this is a source of community gathering for our community and our club,” said Jason Hershey, the vice president of the Cuyahoga Falls Soccer Club.
He explained the park hosts around 300 players between the ages of three through 15 for the spring and fall seasons. But this year, the grass likely won’t be ready to welcome the spring players.
“The fact that it was destroyed in this way really hurt and it was disappointing,” Hershey said.
The city believes late Sunday or early Monday morning, a car or multiple cars drove around the park, cutting deep grooves into the grass on the soccer fields and several baseball fields. One photo taken shortly after the act showed divots at least six inches deep.
“They obviously deliberately did this to both of the fields. There’s baseball players, soccer players, everything. They all come here to play and it’s devastating to see this happen,” said Ewen Herchek, who played more than 10 years with the club before transitioning to high school soccer.
The freshman explained getting onto the fields in the spring was something he looked forward to as a player and more recently, as an assistant coach and referee.
“Now you can’t do anything here because it’s all ruined,” he said. “Spring’s just around the corner and I don’t know if we’re going to be able to fix it.”
The city, which is responsible for upkeep at the park, said it’s committed to fixing the fields. But proper repairs will require longer periods of warm and dry weather.
“There’s not much we can do at this point. Snow’s on the ground and then we start to get the rainy months. So until the ground starts to dry up, there’s not much we can do,” said Hershey.
He said the club has received an outpouring of support from the community, including neighbors with no ties to soccer and a rival club.
“Stow has reached out. They’ve offered the use of their fields, which is very encouraging. They’re our rivals, but in times like this everyone just wants to help out,” said Hershey. “It’s about the kids.”
The city said it’s looking to make back-up sites available for practices and games. Hershey anticipates several of the traveling teams will play without a home field and schedule away games only for the spring season. It’s a reality he believes the alleged vandals didn’t consider.
“I hope that they learn something from it and realize that they didn’t just hurt the field, they actually took something away from over 300 kids,” he said.
The Cuyahoga Falls mayor tells News 5 it’s unclear who’s responsible for the damage, but the person or people will likely face charges if caught.
He’s encouraging anyone with information about the incident to come forward and report it to police. You can leave an anonymous tip by calling 330-871-TIPS (8477). A reward may be available for information.
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