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Update: Charges filed after Veterans Park fields are damaged

Kelsey Roy / RiverTown Multimedia

Charges against the two male suspects identified by Hastings police in connection with an incident that left large portions of soccer fields at Veterans Park damaged were filed Friday, March 29.

According to the criminal complaint filed by the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office, Asa Alden Soine, 27, Hastings and Edward Lee Mears, 26, Hastings were charged with first-degree criminal damage to property.

On Sunday, March 24, Soine and Mears allegedly drove Soine’s Ford Explorer on the fields and spun the tires on the wet turf, creating “doughnuts” and causing major damage. A handicap parking sign was also damaged, the complaint said.

Police responded to a disturbance call on the night of Monday, March 25, where they found Soine’s Ford Explorer in the driveway caked in mud and grass, the complaint said. The vehicle also had damage that was consistent with hitting something, and was later matched to the damaged sign.

Surveillance footage obtained from a business confirmed that an SUV similar to Soine’s was travelling toward the park around 10 p.m. that day, the complaint said.

Roughly 200,000 square feet of damage was done to the fields. In some sections, ruts in the turf made by the tires were as deep as 8 to 10 inches.

“Vandalism and damage at any facility is discouraging; willful damage to this degree is both frustrating and disheartening,” Hastings Parks and Recreation Director Chris Jenkins said. “These fields are a place where our community’s youth are learning a sport, developing skills, building and maintaining fitness, building friendships, learning responsibility, and more.”

Currently, the parks department is working with a contractor to discuss two options for fixing the fields, Jenkins said.

Both options include fixing and flattening the dirt that was wrecked in the incident, whether it means removing dirt or bringing more in.

From there, Jenkins said, the options are to plant new grass seed or bring in sod. If the city decides to reseed the turf, it would take a year for the fields to be playable again. With sod, there is a much quicker turnaround of five or so weeks but the costs will be greater.

“We are working to get quotes, and then the staff will discuss it. After we have discussed it and have a plan in mind, we will bring it to the council,” Jenkins said.

No matter which plan the city chooses, reconstruction of the field may face a delay depending on the ground conditions, according to Jenkins. Depending on the frost conditions of the field, putting machinery on it too early can tear it up even more.

One of the biggest impacts will be on the Hastings Futbol Club, whose season was scheduled to start April 30. The club had a total of 125 games scheduled on the fields before June 3.

“We are working with the city to try and find new locations around the city where we will be able to play,” Jason Wenisch, HFC board member, said. “We are kind of stuck. It’s really disappointing when you consider we were scheduled to be there and start practice in a couple of weeks.”

Between the HFC traveling and recreational teams, nearly 600 kids of all ages had games scheduled to be played on the fields.

“The kids are resilient, and I am sure we will figure something out, but it is highly disappointing,” Wenisch added.