MANCHESTER, NH — Five years ago, it cost the Manchester Angels Youth Soccer League about $8,900 after vandals destroyed its soccer nets and storage shed.
This week, league president Maria Brown discovered vandals had struck again, this time breaking doors to its concession shed and stealing its restaurant-style racks used to hold snacks and candy.
The league maintains a shed and storage bin at the Rock Rimmon Soccer Fields situated behind the Kelley Falls apartment complex on Kimball Street on the city’s West Side.
A $200 lock, the kind used on Mack trucks, prevented the thieves from accessing the storage trailer where the league keeps its nets, uniforms and other equipment, Brown said.
She is frustrated and angry at the latest theft. Last time, the league had to buy a new shed, which cost $3,000, after the thieves lifted up the outer corrugated tin on the outside of the shed, destroying it.
“I’m just so sick of the destruction in the city right now,” she said.
The city of Manchester owns the fields but maintaining the shed and storage trailer is the league’s responsibility, according to Brown. The league tried to obtain insurance to cover vandalism, but the $10,000 annual fee is prohibitive for the non-profit, she said.
An official with the city’s Park and Recreation Department said it will place boards across the front of the shed to prevent vandals from getting in again until the league can get the doors fixed.
The league had installed three locks on the shed, none of which prevented the thieves from gaining access, damaging the doors in the process.
No one was ever charged with the vandalism five years ago although Brown believes it was caused by some homeless people who camped in the woods surrounding the field. She said there was no eyewitness to the theft, but she later found the league’s pop-up canopy tents that were stolen from the storage unit and are used to provide shade on hot, sunny days, at the homeless encampment. They were being used as tents, she said.
She suspects that may be the case this year. She said where there was only one encampment five years ago, today there are six or seven in the nearby woods.
“They are about 10 steps from off my field,” Brown said, speaking possessively of the field she calls a “hidden gem” in the city.
A quick walk around the perimeter of the field reveals one large homeless encampment on one end of it. At the other end, hidden among some briars are two singular tents.
Maria Brown is as frustrated as she is angry about the most recent vandalism.
Brown has been league president for 15 years and all five of her children have participated in the soccer program. Ranging in age from 12 to 17, she said four of them still play.
The league has been in existence for 44 years and registered with the state for 24 years. About 500 kids take part in the program which has seven divisions, including one for the disabled, with four to six teams per division. The league is unique because, she said, it accepts players as young as 4 up to age 19 and never refuses admittance to anyone because of the lack of the ability to pay.