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Tips pour in about Skinner Field vandals

This photo shows just a portion of the damage done in the Skinner Field locker recently. Courtesy photo.

By Judy Reed

Police say that four juveniles, ages 15-16, are allegedly responsible for the malicious destruction of property in the locker room at Skinner Field the weekend of March 24.

The vandalism was discovered on Sunday, March 25, and police were called. According to Shawn Kiphart, president of the Friends of Skinner Field, the locker room has large steel doors that you cannot get into, so the suspect(s) broke out a small daylight window that sits about seven feet off the ground. Nothing appeared to be stolen, but the vandals smashed and destroyed toilets, urinals, 11 new first aid kits, showerheads, football equipment and more. Two of the toilets were brand new. They also burned a flag in the sink. 

Cedar Springs Youth Football uses the locker room, and photos of the damage were posted to their page. According to Kiphart, tips began pouring in from the community. By Wednesday, March 28, police were interviewing the suspects. 

“This shows that the community will not stand for this type of behavior,” said Kiphart. “It really was the community that caught them.” He was also complimentary to the Kent County Sheriff Department. “We are very happy with the police department in how quickly they got on it, how many were involved, and how quickly they solved it. They did a great job,” he said.

The case has been forwarded to the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office for review.

Earlier that same week, the concession stand was also vandalized. In that incident, the vandals dumped cleaning supplies on the floor, then put paper on it and tried to burn it. The floor will need to be replaced. The police have not yet closed that case.

Kiphart said they have had an outpouring of community support to help clean up, as well as replace and repair what was damaged. A gofundme page at https://www.gofundme.com/skinner-field-fund has raised just over $2,300, and they have gotten several people in the community who are skilled laborers (such as plumbers) who have volunteered to come out fix things like the urinals, and donate their time. The Cedar Strong Facebook group also approached them about organizing a cleanup day for the lockeroom and concession stand. “We have not yet started on the cleanup and upgrades because we couldn’t get into the buildings while the investigation was going on,” explained Kiphart. “We’ve only just been able to get into the locker room this week, and we cannot yet get into the concession stand, so a cleanup date has not yet been set.” He hopes they will be able to set one soon.

While he’s pleased that the suspects in the locker room incident have been identified, it’s kind of a bittersweet victory.

“I’m very happy that the suspects were caught, but saddened that there seemed to be no rhyme or reason for what they did, and because they seemed to be local,” said Kiphart. “While they need to be punished, I also hope they get the help that they need.” 

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