Vandals put a big damper on several youth football league games Tuesday night. Now, it's costing the team hundreds of dollars beyond the damage.
There's a full-on arson investigation as well, as vandals tried to blow up one of the field houses and wrecked the teams' cash cow, their concession stand.
It was supposed to be a huge night for the Brandon Lions youth football and cheerleading teams in Seffner.
They were hosting several Tampa Bay teams in scrimmages and expecting to earn thousands in concessions. But those great expectations were dashed, when the concessions manager got there around 4 p.m. to discover what had happened.
It was not what Eddie Vega expected to see when he got to E.L. Bing Park.
"When I walked in, the place was just trashed inside," he said.
Vandals used a pole to pry open the roll-top window and get inside the concession stand. That stand is the Lions' moneymaker, where they try to make ends meet with what they sell there.
"That's how we keep the park running, the county does not put a lot of money into these county parks," said Clyana Wint, who is the cheerleading coach.
So they raise money to make sure their kids have uniforms and equipment. Tuesday was a big night, with several teams scrimmaging from all over the area.
"I'm shocked, I'm very disappointed that somebody would take this from the kids," said Heather Fabel, who has two kids in the cheerleading program. "I mean, this is what we're here for."
Stuff was strewn everywhere.
"Basically opened sodas, poured it all over the stuff in there," said Clyde Wint, who is president of the team.
Most of the concessions were ruined and plenty were stolen.
"We come here right from work, and the kids are hungry, and you run up there and grab them something," said Fabel.
Despite nothing to eat, the football games went on and the cheerleaders took their formations in the shadow of Hillsborough County Sheriff's yellow crime scene tape.
They should have had a big win at the concession stand.
"We could probably get somewhere between $2,500 and $3,000 dollars," Wint said.
"To lose the money that we're going to lose, it's just heartbreaking," Fabel said.
And that's not all.
Investigator David Watts said the vandals started a fire on the floor upstairs in the administration building. There were burnt matches all over the place, which were piled up on a signed shirt from the Bucs.
The shirt had been framed in glass and was a treasured memento from when the Bucs had done a mini-camp with the kids a few years ago.
Watts said the vandals took a propane tank from inside the concession stand, went upstairs in the administration building, opened the tank and left the valve open.
"Apparently, they tried to blow up the place," Vega said.
But Watts said the rug fire went out before the flames hit the fumes, or things could have been a lot worse.
"Absolutely, this was a deliberate act, along with the ransacking of the two buildings," said Watts.
"This is home for a lot of kids for half the year, this is home for the parents, and it hurts me," said Wint.
Deputies believe this happened sometime after 10 Monday night and before 4 Tuesday afternoon, and they believe it was more than one person's doing.
The Lions were able to sell a few concessions before it got dark, but by then, it was too late. Since they lost so much revenue toward their new uniforms and equipment, they're hoping someone will step forward and help them catch up.
Seffner is hosting their first home games this weekend. They hope they can get the concession stand back in order and secured and ready for what should be a busy weekend.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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