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As soccer season nears, a donut spree ruins Hastings' fields

Ah, spring. What a perfect time to ruin 200,000 square feet of athletic turf.

Ah, spring. What a perfect time to ruin 200,000 square feet of athletic turf. City of Hastings

It’s encouraging to see the signs of spring after such a punishing winter. Birds are chirping, the sun is high in the sky by the morning commute, and it won’t be long before we start seeing green grass again.

Except on the field of the Veterans Athletic Complex in Hastings. Because another sure sign of spring is reckless, rambunctious, and pointlessly destructive behavior by complete strangers.

Somebody drove onto the melty, waterlogged fields of the city park and did donuts, turning tight, aimless circles on the turf, ripping up sod as they went. It’s estimated that about 200,000 square feet of turf has been damaged, with gashes as deep as 10 inches. An aerial photo of the park makes it look like somebody scribbled all over it with charcoal.

Whoever did this also ran over a garbage can and took down a handicapped parking sign during the frenzy, which Deputy Police Chief Dave Wilske calls “the least of their problems.” In the next three or four weeks, local soccer clubs were expecting to use those fields for practice, and Hastings Parks and Rec Operations Manager Cory Likes says it’s going to take a “major overhaul” to get them fixed.

“I’ve been here for 23 years, and I’ve seen some minor damage here and there,” he says. But he’s never seen anything like this.

The repairs costs -- and who’s going to pay for it -- remain uncertain. If they're forced to use seed rather than sod, the fields will be out of commission for the rest of the year.

Wilske says police have the suspected vehicle in its possession, and a city press release announced that two “adult male suspects” had been identified.

Wilske doesn’t have much to say about the incident other than that it’s “very disappointing.” There are consequences for wild bouts of destructive behavior – measured in money, square feet, and the nearly 600 kids signed up for soccer who currently have nowhere to practice.